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Falcon fastpitch team heads for playoffs

"Nici Eaton motors toward third on her way to home plate, scoring the one and only run in Tuesday's big win over Mount Baker. Eaton scored on Mary Murphy's double.Jim Larsen / staff photosA 13-5 home victory over Blaine Thursday night put an exclamation mark on a brilliant second half of the season for the South Whidbey fastpitch team.The Falcons started the year with a 0-3 North Cascades Conference record, and finished regular season play at 11-5. In the last half, they beat every other team in the conference on their way to a second place finish.Senior Shannon Murphy celebrated her final regular season game for South Whidbey by collecting 2 hits, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. Julie Robinson went 2-for-3 at the plate with 4 RBI, while Ashley Lopez tripled in her only official at-bat. Nici Eaton pitched the first 5 innings, Val Mock went 2 frames, and Lucy Daumen finished it with with a fine final inning.Thursday's win was no surprise. The big game of the week came Tuesday when Ashley Lopez pitched a five-hit shutout, coming through when the pressure was on in a 1-0 fastpitch win against visiting Mount Baker.The Pioneers entered the game in sole possession of second place with a one game lead over South Whidbey and several other North Cascades Conference teams. The victory tied the Falcons for second going into last night's season finale against Blaine.Ashley was right on, said coach Renee Christian of Lopez's pitching skills. The sophomore ace scattered five hits and benefited from South Whidbey's tremendous defense.South Whidbey scored the only run it needed in the first inning when Nici Eaton drew a walk and came home on a hard-hit double to left center by Mary Murphy. The Falcons threatened to score more when they loaded the bases but a strikeout ended hopes of a big inning.But the Falcon defense was determined to make the single run hold up. In the sixth the Pioneers had runners on first and third with no outs but couldn't score. Falcon third baseman Keasha Campbell snagged a hot grounder and threw the runner out at home for the first out. With runners on first and third again, Campbell fielded another shot, faked a throw to first and tagged out the runner standing off the bag at third. The ol' fake play, said coach Christian. Then second baseman Bronwyn Russell grabbed a line shot for out number three.Mount Baker mounted another threat in the seventh with two outs. The batter drove the ball over the head of right fielder Mary Murphy, who pegged the ball to the relay, shortstop Julie Robinson. The runner tried for third and Robinson cut her down with a perfect throw to Campbell at the bag.I think we have the number one defense in the league, Christian said. After Tuesday's 1-0 win, not even Mount Baker's coach could argue with that statement. "

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