Comeback kids are champs

Hardly anyone on the field at the South Whidbey Community Park could keep track of what was going on, let alone the score, Wednesday night.

In a wild District 11 championship game, a team of South Whidbey 11- and 12-year-olds staged a sixth-inning comeback to beat a South Skagit team that had seemed — several days earlier — to have their number. South Whidbey won the game 14-11, but only after pulling runs out of nowhere and exhausting two pitchers.

Having lost to South Skagit 16-2 in the first game of the tournament last week, the South Whidbey girls had to fight their way out of the losers bracket to reach Wednesday’s game. They did that by beating Sedro-Woolley 4-2, Anacortes 9-3, and San Juan 9-2 over the next few days, before meeting South Skagit Monday in a contest that forced Wednesday’s playoff. In that game, held in front of loud crowds boosting both teams, the South Whidbey girls pulled off a 7-6 upset.

In the early innings of Wednesday’s game, South Whidbey seemed to have figured out how to beat South Skagit. On some nice hit-and-run ball, the girls scored two runs in the top of the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. But their opponents came right back, scoring four against a tiring Katie Pieler, who took the pitcher’s mound on too little rest.

“By the second inning, she was toast,” said team coach Joe Murphy.

But in a gritty performance, Pieler managed to strike out two in the fifth before an inconsistent outfield managed to pick up the last out and limit the damage on the scoreboard to 5-3.

From there, the game went back and forth. South Whidbey scored three more in the top of the sixth, but gave up one run in the bottom of the inning to allow a 6-6 tie and push the game into extra innings. The seventh was scoreless, but then both teams broke out with five runs apiece in the eighth. South Whidbey finally put the game away in the ninth, scoring three on a walk and three hits. Melanie Murphy, who took over from reliever Nikki Parra, shut South Skagit down in the final inning, allowing no runs.

Coach Murphy said his team weathered the good and bad of the game and the tournament as a solid unit. Team members are Katie Piehler, Melanie Murphy, Nikki Parra, Amanda Cochran, Taylor Pope, Shayna Grant, Tylyn Linehan, Josylyn Graham, Kelsie Dorpatt, Bayley Heggenes, Ellen Christensen, and Nikki Nelson.

The team starts state tournament play today in Snohomish against the District 8 champion.

A second South Whidbey softball team, the 9-10-year-old All-Stars, also placed well in the District 11 tournament held at the Community Park. The team was a second place finisher, losing in a championship game Monday. Details about the tournament were not available as of press time Friday.

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