Fielding, pitching powers Falcon fastpitch past Turks

Falcon sophomore Haley Viers beats the throw to first base during the second game of a doubleheader against Sultan on Friday at South Whidbey High School.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon sophomore Haley Viers beats the throw to first base during the second game of a doubleheader against Sultan on Friday at South Whidbey High School.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Trailing early, the Falcon fastpitch girls surged back to beat the Sultan Turks on Friday.

South Whidbey swept Sultan in a doubleheader 2-1 and 8-2 behind stellar pitching and solid fielding. Falcon pitchers Mackenzie Hezel and Alex Kubeska combined for seven strikeouts and allowed five hits.

“I was just pitching my hardest and sitting on the bucket and doing all the techniques that Ashley has taught me,” said Hezel, a sophomore who rotated from the pitcher’s circle to first base with Kubeska in the fifth and seventh innings.

The Falcons scored four runs in the second and added three in the third to topple the Turks in the second game. It was welcome run production after back-to-back 10-run losses earlier in the week to Archbishop Murphy and Granite Falls.

“We’ve really come together in these last three days, and it really shows a difference in our girls,” said Falcon head coach Ashley Lopez.

“We’re learning to respect each other and our differences, how to work together and how to make changes individually and together.”

For South Whidbey’s final home game, the seniors had critical hits on Senior Day. In the second inning, senior designated hitter Hannah Merrow knocked a double to left field that scored junior Ellie Greene from third base. That set up sophomore Chantel Brown for a two RBI single up the middle, but Brown tagged out at second. With two outs, freshman catcher Anne Madsen hit a double to left field and got caught in a pickle before she slid safely into third base. Kubeska, a Falcon junior, jacked a triple to the right field fence that scored Madsen.

“It felt really great, actually. I hit the sweet spot so it just kind of sailed off the bat,” Merrow said. “It was really nice to do some good hitting on my Senior Night.”

In the third inning, Sultan’s fielding mistakes put South Whidbey runners on base. Falcon senior Zoey Maeser reached first after the Turks’ first baseman pulled her foot off the bag to catch the throw from third base. Greene dropped a single to shallow center field. The Turks got some redemption after a double play on a force out at third and a throw to first base. The Falcons rallied with two outs, however, which senior second baseman Brittany Wood sparked with a single through the right side of the infield that scored Greene. Haley Viers, the Falcons’ sophomore shortstop, was saved from the third out (a foul pop fly along third base) by an illegal pitch and hit an infield RBI single to third base. Brown brought home Viers on a standup triple to right field that gave South Whidbey a 7-1 lead.

“Everybody got an at-bat in that game. Those that we did put in made something happen. All the seniors had good hits,” Lopez said.

South Whidbey’s final run was scored on a Sultan error. Falcon freshman Sarah Merrow struck out, but the dropped pitch meant the play was live. Merrow beat the throw at first base, and Kubeska scored from second base. The games Friday were the first in a while that the Merrow sisters were able to play together, and it was a valuable moment to Lopez.

“It was really cute to see the Merrows playing,” Lopez said. “They’re not going to have that after this.”

The teams became testy after Kubeska was brought in to relieve Hezel in the fifth. Kubeska plunked the second Turk batter she faced on her left elbow. The player yelled a curse word that rhymes with duck, threw her helmet to the ground and declared the hit was intentional. Her pinch runner made an error, though. After a fielder’s choice moved her to second base, she began walking back to first and said she thought the hit was ruled foul.

“We didn’t want to be too cocky and underestimate them,” Hezel said. “We were confident but not cocky.”

The Falcons need to beat the Lakewood Cougars on Wednesday to advance to the District 1 play-in game.

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