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Piehler’s return stunted by Tigers’ hitting
GRANITE FALLS — Katy Piehler returned to the mound and kept Granite Falls to two runs through four innings.
Then the Tigers scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth behind aggressive base running that put the game past South Whidbey.
Seven was an unlucky number for South Whidbey. The Falcons failed to score in seven innings, struck out seven times and left seven runners stranded in the 6-0 loss to Granite Falls. In seven games, South Whidbey has one win and six losses, all Cascade Conference games.
Piehler, a senior co-captain, couldn’t explain the lack of run production.
“I’m not sure,” Piehler said. “Honestly, I can’t answer that because I don’t know myself.”
Granite Falls (6-2 in Cascade Conference; 7-3 overall) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Logan Thomas led off with a bunt down the third baseline. Peyton Spencer drove Thomas in with a single past South Whidbey second baseman Haley Viers. Then Haley Brennan hit a double down the first baseline that scored Spencer.
“They’re doing a great job being aggressive,” said Granite Falls head coach Candi Reeves.
“They’re doing a great job picking up signals. I couldn’t be more proud,” she said. “We place a lot of emphasis on signals and that missing signals could cost you ball games.”
South Whidbey’s only rally came in the second inning. MacKenzie Hezel hit a single between second and third. Hannah Merrow walked after a full count with one out. Piehler hit a backspin single between the pitching circle and home. With the bases loaded, Viers bunted a pop fly foul just above the catcher for the second out.
Lead-off hitter Chantel Brown was at bat with two outs and the bases loaded, and didn’t get the chance to score a RBI because Hezel was picked off at third base by the catcher.
The fourth inning featured two Falcon highlight plays. Viers moved toward first base to field a ground ball, bobbled the ball and slipped as she threw out Brennan at first base. Merrow made the final out on a running catch in right field near the foul line.
The Tigers scored four more runs in the fifth inning. Piehler loaded the bases on three singles before Spencer hit a two-RBI grounder up the middle between Falcon shortstop Alex Kubeska and Viers, both playing shallowly to stop a run at home plate. Then Piehler got three pop fly outs that scored two runs on sacrifice flies.
“I just think we have more experience coming into the season,” Reeves said.
Granite Falls pitcher Kimmy Martinez struck out seven batters, allowed five hits and two walks and no runs. Martinez is a freshman and her coach praised the pitcher’s prowess.
“As the pitcher gets more confidence, the team gets more confidence and rallies behind her,” Reeves said.
That confidence didn’t work for South Whidbey. Piehler pitched a complete game, after pitching the previous two games as well.
“It was good,” Piehler said. “I enjoy pitching, a lot. I have some work to do because I just started back on the mound.”
“I was sore from pitching the last two days,” she added.
The game was a much different outcome from the two teams’ first meeting in March. Granite Falls won 13-9 during Hezel’s pitching debut. Still, the Falcons scored nine runs and failed to score against Martinez in this, the second game.
The defensive stats were cleaner. No unearned runs were scored on South Whidbey—an improvement from the previous meeting with the Tigers that saw a slew of overthrows and missed catches.
“I think we came together as a team,” Piehler said. “I mean, we really gave it our all, this time.”