Falcon fastpitch team hopes to make districts | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Chantal White fields a ground ball during drills with the Falcon softball team. It was one of the rare dry days the team was able to play on the field.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Chantal White fields a ground ball during drills with the Falcon softball team. It was one of the rare dry days the team was able to play on the field.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Don Wood has a veteran, inexperienced team.

It may sound contradictory, but the South Whidbey softball team’s roster proves it.

“This is the first year that we have a good mixture of [classes],” Wood said.

The team has four seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen. Shayna Grant and Taylor Pope are both seniors who didn’t play last season. The other two seniors, Chantal White and Katy Piehler, are the team’s anchors and stars.

White, the Falcons’ center fielder, brings speed to the outfield and base running. Piehler is Wood’s ace on the mound. Neither are officially team captains, yet. Wood said he would wait for conference games to start before electing leadership.

“I like to see who rises to that occasion,” Wood said.

With the help of assistant coach Ashley Lopez, Wood expects to turn his underclassmen into veterans by the end of the season. Lopez assists with pitching and hitting, primarily.

“The kids really look up to her,” Wood said of Lopez.

The inexperienced Falcons will need to play like hardened veterans to bring down the top teams like Archbishop Murphy and Granite Falls.

The Granite Falls Tigers finished last season’s conference games undefeated through 18 games. Archbishop Murphy was second place at 11-7, even though it lost both contests against South Whidbey. Despite sweeping the Wildcats, the Falcons split with lower-ranked teams like Lakewood and Sultan. The lesson wasn’t lost on Wood.

“Last year we learned we can’t look past any team,” Wood said.

The Falcons finished in a three-way tie for second place at 11-7 and advanced to the District 1 playoffs in the Northwest Conference. South Whidbey was eliminated in its first two games by Blaine and Burlington-Edison.

This season’s post-regular season goal is to win a district playoff game.

“Every year we shoot for districts and nothing less,” Wood said.

White said her goal is to advance to the state tournament. The reason she said she believed the Falcons are capable is balance.

“I think we’ve got the best of both worlds — offensive and defensive,” White said.

Wood said he moved past the low turnout of 14 athletes, which dropped to 12 after the first week of practice. It’s the fewest girls Wood has seen try out in his five seasons with South Whidbey softball.

“It was a disappointing turnout,” he said. “But I’m very pleased with the kids that came out. They’re ready to play.”

Part of Wood’s tale of attrition is his daughter, Brittany Wood, a junior at South Whidbey. She would have been a returning varsity player.

“As her coach, I was disappointed,” Wood said.

“I would have loved to see her do it and truly believe she would have helped our team out. As her dad, I respect her decision and support her. And speaking as her father, it has actually turned out to be a good thing because it gave her a little breathing room.”

Wood added: “Then I put on my coach’s hat on and said, ‘But Brittany if you change your mind I’d really love to have you come out there.’”

In previous years, Coach Wood had the team come together at the end of practice for a cheer he devised.

“Every day and every way we get a little better, hey,” Wood said.

He hasn’t used that cheer, this year. Instead, Wood said he is waiting for the team to define itself and create a cheer or a spirit the players feel they own.

The season started on March 12 for the softball team at Friday Harbor. It was almost a movie-style beginning. South Whidbey trailed Friday Harbor 6-1 in the top of the seventh inning. Then the Falcon hitting caught the ferry to Friday Harbor and finally found South Whidbey’s players, as the Falcons scored seven runs in the seventh inning.

“Hitting was one of my highlights Saturday,” Wood said. “We were putting the ball in play.”

Friday Harbor scored another run to cut South Whidbey’s lead 8-7. With one out and a runner on first, South Whidbey was ready to put the game away with one infield grounder for a double play. But time ran out for the ferry-riding Falcons, who needed to make the 5:25 ferry or wait for another two hours.

The coaches and umpires conferred, and the game was called, with the score reflecting the bottom of the sixth inning.

Girls fastpitch

Monday, March 21, Cedarcrest

Wednesday, March 23, Lakewood*

Friday, March 25, Archbishop Murphy

Monday, March 28, Granite Falls*

Wednesday, March 30, Sultan

Wednesday, April 6, Coupeville*

Monday, April 11, Cedarcrest*

Wednesday, April 13, Lakewood

Friday, April 15, Archbishop Murphy*

Monday, April 18, Granite Falls

Wednesday, April 20, Sultan*

Monday, April 25, Coupeville

Wednesday, April 27, Cedarcrest (double header, 3:30 p.m.)

Friday, April 29, Lakewood*

Monday, May 2, Archbishop Murphy

Wednesday, May 4, Granite Falls*

Friday, May 6, Sultan

Wednesday, May 11, Coupeville*

* Home games. All games at 4 p.m. unless noted.


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