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Falcon fastpitch crushes Coupeville in season finale
LANGLEY — For South Whidbey seniors Shayna Grant, Katy Piehler, Taylor Pope and Chantal White, it was a bittersweet ending to their Falcon careers last Thursday night.
The bitter: The Falcons did not qualify to compete in the District 1 playoffs, the team’s goal coming into the season.
The sweet: Beating island-rival Coupeville 10-0 in only five innings.
“We were going to try and end on a good note even if we couldn’t advance (to districts),” said White, South Whidbey’s center fielder.
The Falcons were scheduled to play the Coupeville Wolves on Wednesday, but it was rained out and moved to Thursday, May 12.
South Whidbey needed Granite Falls to defeat Sultan in order to qualify for the playoffs. However, Granite Falls lost to Sultan and the Lakewood Cougars in a doubleheader to dash the Falcons’ hopes of a district berth.
A three-way tie for third place would have forced a tiebreaker between South Whidbey, Sultan and Lakewood to determine the fourth-place finisher and the Cascade Conference representative in the District 1 play-in game.
The Falcons finished sixth in the final standings, with a record of 6 wins and 11 losses in Cascade Conference and overall play.
“It was great finishing the season strong,” said South Whidbey head coach Don Wood. “It would have sure been nice to move on, but after a strong game against Granite Falls and then beating Archbishop Murphy (the top team in the conference) and now beating Coupeville was definitely rewarding.”
Piehler’s first pitch was an aberration in an otherwise solid shutout. The Coupeville batter hit a single between first base and second.
Hits were rare for Coupeville against Piehler. The Wolves tallied only five more hits, compared to the Coupeville pitching that allowed 16.
Piehler, along with only six hits allowed, also threw five strikeouts.
“Katy is just a really good, hardworking pitcher,” Wood said. “I still believe she is one of the top, if not the top, pitcher in the league right now.”
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning with the Falcons at bat.
White bunted and reached first base on an overthrow from the pitcher to the first baseman. The overthrow scored freshman catcher Chantel Brown, who was already on base after a single. White ran to third base on the play at home to tag out Brown. Pope’s two-RBI hit to left field scored White and Alex Kubeska and put South Whidbey ahead 3-0.
With the Wolves at bat in the top of the fourth inning, Shayna Grant dove for a low grounder, scooped it and then extended her glove to pitch it to shortstop Alex Kubeska who covered second base for the second out of the inning. Piehler finished the inning with a strikeout.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, reserve utility player Hannah Merrow doubled between center and right field. Brown and White both singled to set up Kubeska’s RBI single to left field that scored Merrow. Brown was ruled out after not touching third base when rounding the bag for home.
Pope singled, then Piehler scored White and Kubeska on a hit to left field. Grant’s two-RBI single to left field rounded Pope and Piehler home. Leading 8-0, the girls needed two more runs and to shut out Coupeville on the 10-run mercy rule.
White doubled over the right fielder. With White and Brown both on base, Piehler stepped to the plate with an opportunity to close out the game.
“I just went up there ready to hit,” Piehler said. “I gave it my best.”
Piehler hit the ball deep into right field, scoring Brown and White and winning the game for the Falcon girls, 10-0.
South Whidbey is done for the season. Regret was nowhere to be found among the Falcons, though.
“Those last three games were amazing to end with,” White said. “It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t play like that all season. My teammates are just such loyal people and that’s what made our game so successful.”
After the game, Coach Wood had some final thoughts on the impact his seniors had on the team.
“Chantal was our captain of the outfield,” he said. “If the ball was in the air, then you better beware because Chantal was coming after it no matter what because she has such great range, speed and just a great heart. We’re definitely going to miss her because of her hitting ability as well and her smarts about base running.”
Pope, who returned to softball this year, had a successful season at first base and at bat.
“Taylor has always been a solid hitter,” Wood said. “Almost every time she would get bat-on-ball and rarely would she strike out. At first base she was also always solid where not too many balls got by her.”
Grant missed most of the season with triceps and knee injuries.
“Shayna has excellent speed,” Wood said. “She could bunt for a base hit or hit for a base hit so consistently. Her ability to get the ball on defense and just her heads-up plays will be missed. Even today when she was playing, she was in the dugout helping some of the freshmen with the (stat) book. That’s the kind of player she was.”
Piehler’s pitching was a point of emphasis for Wood.
“The great thing about Katy was that she had awesome control,” Wood said. “Even in games that we lost she was always hitting the spot and we had those hitters off balance. She always hit that target. The combination between calling out the pitches and her actually hitting the spot — we had a lot of fun with it.”