Final inning walks drop Falcons against Red Wolves

Falcon junior pitcher Alex Kubeska runs to cover home plate on a passed ball against Cedarcrest as Karly Gidlof slides home to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon junior pitcher Alex Kubeska runs to cover home plate on a passed ball against Cedarcrest as Karly Gidlof slides home to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — The Falcons needed three outs to secure an upset victory against the top-seeded Cedarcrest Red Wolves.

South Whidbey got the outs, just a few walks, a game-changing double and four runs too late.

Instead of a 4-1 victory, the South Whidbey fastpitch team lost 5-4 after a seventh-inning rally by Cedarcrest on Monday. The Falcons’ ace pitcher, junior Alex Kubeska, walked three batters and gave up two doubles. The Red Wolves’ center fielder Karly Gidlof hit the second blast with the bases loaded to left-center field that tied the game at 4-4.

“She just couldn’t get the ball down,” said Falcon head coach Ashley Lopez of her pitcher. “(Gidlof) came up, she knew what we were doing. She wanted to hit that ball. She knew it was coming.”

The inning was difficult to watch unfold for sophomore left fielder Chantel Brown, who was unable to run down Gidlof’s game-changing hit.

“It’s tough sometimes. I have confidence in our pitcher to get those outs that she needs, and I have confidence in our infield that they’ll get anything on the ground, and we have a strong outfield that can get to the ball,” she said.

“We were ready, but they did get the gaps on us.”

Despite the tying scores, South Whidbey was only one out from silencing the rowdy Red Wolf dugout. Kubeska’s high velocity pitching, mixed with the wet turf and ball, however, allowed Gidlof to steal third and home on back-to-back passed balls for the go-ahead run. And whereas Madsen earlier was able to retrieve a passed ball quickly enough to throw to Kubeska for a tag out, this pitch got away.

“I have to be ready for everything back there,” Madsen said. “It had a nice bounce. I just have to be quick getting back there to get those outs.”

With the final at-bats, South Whidbey (5-7 Cascade Conference, 6-7 overall) still had a chance. The top of the Falcons’ lineup was up, led by Brown, the leadoff hitter. She delivered with a shot to the right-center field fence that sailed over Gidlof, though not without a little slip from the batter’s box.

“I kind of got stuck leaving home plate because it’s muddy out, and it is tougher to run in the mud,” Brown said. “Once I saw that it was definitely over her head I went a little faster.”

As Brown rounded first, she was waved around to head for third. She took a wide turn, hit second base and sprinted toward third base. Gidlof threw to the Red Wolves’ shortstop Taylor Turner. The relay throw to Jerrica Kjorsvik was high, but the field umpire called Brown out on the tag. The Falcon coaches argued against the call, and Lopez asked the home plate ump to reconsider who had the better angle.

The decision was not changed.

“By the time I saw it in, (Brown) was looking at me and I knew she was going to three. She’s one of our quickest players. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get the call,” Lopez said. “That really switched it up for our game’s situation. We would have had our quickest runner on third base, top of our lineup. We had a game plan, it just completely changed the game.”

Cedarcrest (9-1 Cascade Conference, 9-1 overall) was able to finish South Whidbey with two more plays by Turner — a groundout and a pop fly.

It was a letdown loss for the Falcons who had not trailed since the first inning. South Whidbey tied the game in the bottom of the first on a single to right field by sophomore first baseman Mackenzie Hezel that scored Brown.

After that, the game went silent save for a few near-rallies by the Red Wolves, who stranded eight runners until the final inning.

The Falcons caught a strong wind of change in the fourth inning. Hezel pulled a single between third base and the shortstop. Kubeska shot a single up the middle. With senior third baseman Zoey Maeser at bat, Hezel and Kubeska stole on a wild pitch, putting both in scoring position. Maeser fought to a full count before she drove in Hezel on a blooper to shallow right field and reached second base on the throw to third. Falcon junior center fielder Ellie Greene scored Kubeska on a sacrifice fly to deep center field for a 3-1 advantage.

Kubeska was brilliant from there. She struck out three batters and forced three ground outs in the fifth and sixth innings.

“Defensively, for our all-in-all game, it was the best defense we’ve seen from our team by far,” Lopez said. “She’s got a lot of velocity, we just have to reel in the horse.”

South Whidbey secured some insurance runs (which the team calls “Aflac”) in the fifth. Greene scored Kubeska from second base on a single up the middle and reached second base on the throw to home plate.

The loss had little affect on South Whidbey’s playoff position. The top three 2A teams from the conference advance to the District 1 playoffs, and the fourth team will compete in a play-in game with the fifth team from the Northwest Conference.

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