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Senior South Whidbey Falcons set softball team’s cheery tone despite record
The batting average Chantel Brown put up this season is hard to believe, even for her South Whidbey head coach, Tim Collins, who fully believed in his senior first baseman and catcher.
Brown, who was voted to the Cascade Conference first team for fastpitch softball, hit .558 this year. That means that more times than not when she stepped to the plate, she was going to get a base hit. For the season, Brown amassed 29 hits — 23 singles, four doubles and two triples — in 52 at-bats, 17 runs, 11 RBI and a pair of walks against, believe it or not, two strikeouts.
“She really helped us out,” Collins said.
“If we’d have finished a little higher in the standings, I think she would have been recognized a bit more,” he added.
Numbers like that nearly garnered her a league MVP title, though that was split by Archbishop Murphy’s Alyson Matriotti and Lakewood’s Kiana Smith.
Brown was far from alone as a South Whidbey representative in the all-league lists of the top players. Anne Madsen, a junior catcher, was voted to the second team after compiling a .409 batting average. As the catcher for a first-year high school pitcher thrust into the prime duty, Madsen was responsible for stopping any strays from getting by her and throwing out any ambitious base runners.
“Anne, she was very clutch,” Collins said. “Kids didn’t just run wild on her.”
Kacie Hanson, the Falcons’ freshman pitcher — and only pitcher most of the season — tied with Brown for the team’s most RBI and hit .396.
“She did a great job at the plate,” Collins said.
In fact, the whole team hit well. South Whidbey recorded a .339 batting average this season, though their ability to drive in base runners fell short. Limiting other teams’ scoring was a regular struggle, and South Whidbey allowed 11.4 runs per game overall while scoring 4.3 — a recipe for a losing record. The Falcons finished in last place in the league with a 3-15 record and were 4-17 overall, including a pair of District 1 playoff losses.
Tallying more losing streaks than overall wins meant it was a long season for the whole team, and especially four-year varsity seniors Haley Viers and Brown.
“It was rough losing so many games and the way we lost them,” said Viers, an honorable mention nomination to the all-league teams. “I just had to focus on having fun and enjoying the company of my team, getting to know all the girls.”
“It would have been nice to win more, but I still had a lot of fun,” she added.
Having Viers and Brown as team leaders who had played for two other coaches during their Falcon careers was an important part of the team’s chemistry, Collins said. He praised them for recruiting some younger girls to join the team, even a few who had not played organized softball before, to bolster the program and add depth to its roster.
“Their leadership, their positive attitudes — they’ve been through the grind before and didn’t let the losses affect their enthusiasm for playing the game,” Collins said. “That was their most important aspect of the season. It’s easy to get caught up in the number of losses. I was impressed by their work ethic and their attitudes and their hustle. They didn’t dog it, they didn’t quit.”
Viers said the most memorable game this season was the Falcons’ victory over the perennial power Archbishop Murphy Wildcats. South Whidbey rallied to take the lead in the first game of the series and went on to win 8-5.
“We felt we were the underdogs and weren’t gonna come back,” Viers said. “Then we beat them and it boosted our confidence.”