Fastpitch Cardinals are champs

After dominating their league this season and all early rounds of their district tournament last week, the South Whidbey Cardinals took it to the wire in the U-12 Little League fastpitch softball championship game last Thursday.

Having hammered their opponents in the previous three rounds of the Mount Vernon tournament 49-10, the Cardinal girls struggled through ragged pitching and put up big numbers at the plate to beat Anacortes 21-20 to take the title.

The Cardinals, a 14-2 team during the regular season and one of two South Whidbey teams in the tournament, beat out girls teams from Central Whidbey, Oak Harbor, Sedro-Woolley, and Skagit County to take the title, the second for a South Whidbey team in as many years.

Though the Cardinals pitching staff got roughed up in the championship game, giving up 11 hits and 21 walks, it was good pitching that got the team to the big contest. In the opening round of the tournament, the Cardinals beat Sedro-Woolley 11-1 on a seven-strikeout, four-inning performance by pitcher Nikki Parra. In the team’s second came, 10-year-old Paige Miller hurled a complete game, 26-7 victory over North Whidbey. And in the third round, Melanie Murphy threw a two-hitter against Anacortes, which gave the Cardinals plenty of working room as they took the contest 12-2.

Cardinals coach Joe Murphy said his team’s final game in the six-day tournament was a tough one, since the girls were starting to feel the pressure. Both the Cardinals and Anacortes suffered pitching breakdowns: The Cardinals wound up compiling 10 hits against Anacortes and took advantage of 23 walks.

“At that point, you’re gasping for strikes,” Murphy said.

It took both Parra and Miller to finish the game on the mound for the Cardinals. At the plate, the team needed big plays from its hitters. It got them as Taylor Pope and Shayna Grant each came up with three hits, and Ellen Christensen added two more to spur on the scoring.

Murphy said some great catches by the team’s outfielders — Lyna Nichols, Jasylyn Graham and Kaylie Stayskal — also helped to keep the game in reach. Other team members on the field for the game were Molly Rawls and Bayley Heggenes.

The Cardinals and members of South Whidbey’s other 12-and-under fastpitch team, the Mariners, now move onto all-star competition. South Whidbey will host all-star tournaments July 7-17 for girls ages 9 through 12

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