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South Whidbey fastpitch team advances to state
"Falcon Bronwyn Russell reacts happily after getting the game's first hit in Saturday's crucial opening contest against Foster.Jim Larsen / staff photosFalcons at stateThe State 2A Fastpitch Tournament will be played Friday and Saturday in Wenatchee. South Whidbey's first game is scheduled early, at 8 a.m. Friday against Richfield, the number one team from its district. The state tournament will be played at Walla Walla Point Park on the river in Wenatchee.The Bi-District tournament in Sedro-Woolley last weekend settled the state seeding from the North Cascades Conference and Nisqually Conference. Here are the five teams that made it to state in order of bi-district finish: Nooksack Valley, Lynden Christian, Foster, South Whidbey, Lakewood.A long day of fastpitch paid off in a big way for South Whidbey on Saturday.The Falcon team, composed mostly of sophomores and freshmen, will make their first trip ever to the state tournament this weekend thanks to their courageous two-win, two-loss performance in the 2A Bi-District Tournament Saturday in Sedro-Woolley.The first game for South Whidbey was the biggest stumbling block in the way of the team's season-long goal of advancing to state. The opponent was the Foster Lady Bulldogs, who were as tough as their namesake and anchored by the bulky, hard-throwing Leonardo sisters sharing pitching duties. Last year, the Bulldogs ended the Falcons' season at district.South Whidbey leadoff batter Bronwyn Russell started the game with a sharp single, signaling that the smaller Falcons wouldn't be intimated by the big Bulldog pitchers. The second batter was hit, giving South Whidbey an early threat. But the Foster pitcher whiffed the next three Falcons to take control of the game.Falcon starter Ashley Lopez, an all-league selection, took a little longer to get loose in the wet morning weather. A three-bag outfield error put the Bulldogs' lead-off batter on third, and before the inning ended Foster had a 2-0 lead.Lopez soon found her stride and shut down the Bulldogs over the next three innings, while South Whidbey finally found the scoreboard in the fifth thanks, in large part, to Lopez's bat. Russell started the rally by reaching base on an error, Julie Robinson singled, Mary Murphy drove in Russell with a hit, and then Lopez launched a long double to score Robinson and Murphy. The 3-spot gave South Whidbey a short-lived lead.Foster came back with one run in the sixth to tie the score, then South Whidbey went ahead 4-3 with what proved to be the winning run in the seventh. Jenny Murphy walked, Robinson advanced her to second with a fine sacrifice bunt, and Murphy went to third on an out. With two outs and a runner on third, Keasha Campbell stepped to the plate. She rolled one down the first base line and the Bulldog first baseman came in for it, undecided whether to throw home to get Murphy coming to the plate, or go to first to get the final out there. That moment of indecision was all Murphy needed to score. When the first baseman decided to go to the bag Campbell was already there.Keasha got the big hit, coach Renee Christian said. It was a split decision on the first baseman's part. That's what makes the game.Foster opened the bottom of the final frame with a single to right but Lopez and the stout Facon defense kept them from scoring. South Whidbey celebrated its 4-3 win and prepared for the next game.Fall to NooksackThe win sent the Falcons up against another first-game winner, Nooksack Valley, which eventually won the tournament. The Pioneers downed the Falcons 10-5.Pitching duties went to Val Mock who pitched a scoreless first. In the second, her teammates staked her to a 2-0 lead when hits by Shannon Brown and Jenny Murphy drove in Mary Murphy, who had doubled, and Lopez, who had singled.The Pioneers retaliated with 6 runs in their half of the second. Coach Christian, hoping for a win to assure a state berth, brought Lopez back in to pitch and the strategy almost paid off. The Falcons cut the deficit to 6-5 in the fifth, but then the Pioneers scored 4 in the final inning to secure the win.Klahowya blowoutMoving quickly to game three, the Falcons knew a win would send them to state despite the loss to Nooksack Valley. They took advantage of the win and you're in situation by ripping Klahowya 17-0.Freshman pitcher Nici Eaton, backed up by some errorless defense, held Klahowya to only two hits while the Falcons accumulated a dozen. Several errors by Klahowya helped South Whidbey run the score up.A five run first inning gave the Falcons a solid lead, and the 10 run mercy rule ended the game after 5 innings.Julie Robinson had the hot bat, going 4 for 5 and driving in 4 runs. Mary Murphy drove home 2 with a bases loaded double, and Shannon Murphy went 2 for 3 with an RBI.Foster againWith a state berth assured, the Falcons played yet another game. At stake was third or fourth seeding at state. Foster was again the opponent, and this time the Lady Bulldogs prevailed 5-2.Sophomore Lucy Daumen pitched a good game for the Falcons but the offense couldn't score enough runs to win as they mustered only 1 in the fourth and 1 in the sixth. Julie Robinson, Val Mock and Shannon Murphy all collected 2 hits for the game.Two wins on the day sent the Falcons to state. The kids are excited to be going, coach Christian said. State's an all-new experience this year, but the Falcons might get used to it. The squad includes seven sophomores and two freshmen.This team's going to be at state for a while, Christian predicted. "