South Whidbey’s softball team has made a splash in the Cascade Conference just five games into the season.
The Falcons are 3-2 overall and second in the league following wins over Archbishop Murphy and Sultan. While South Whidbey’s 11-3 win over Sultan on March 30 came with relative ease, the Falcons defeated the Wildcats in dramatic fashion and with two first-year players.
Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, freshman Makenna Morley singled to first and reached second on an error. Freshman Ari Marshall scored Morley on a walk-off single after Morley slid over home plate to secure the run. She was greeted by the sight of joy from her teammates, who quickly cleared the dugout and ran on the field to celebrate.
If Archbishop Murphy left the field in a bit of surprise, it would have been understandable. A year prior on Mar. 24, 2015, the Wildcats defeated the Falcons 7-0. Two weeks later, the Wildcats beat them again 19-0.
“I wanted to beat them just because of the way that they played last year,” head coach Alexandra Goheen said. “They stole on us a lot and they were just racking up the runs. We didn’t play very well last year, and so this year I came in confident that we we’re going to do well against them. I wasn’t sure we were going to win, but I knew we were going to do well.”
Perhaps the biggest difference for the Falcons has been self-proficiency on the field, Goheen said.
“They’re doing more stuff than they did last year,” Goheen said. “They’re stealing bases, they’re getting hits, they’re getting plays when they need to get plays.”
While the win over Sultan, a class 1A school, was more important in terms of the postseason, South Whidbey’s triumph over Archbishop Murphy was a boost for the team’s morale.
“I don’t think people expected us to win,” junior pitcher Mackenzie Collins said. “We came into it confident, knowing we had the ability to (win).”
“Archbishop has been good in the past, so for us to come and beat them 3-2 was a pretty big deal,” she added.
Collins did her part in thwarting the Wildcat attack with 14 strikeouts, yielding only two hits and walking three over seven innings. Her opponent, sophomore Brooke Jordan, gave up six hits, two earned runs and two walks, but struck out seven Falcons.
Morley finished as the Falcons’ top hitter after going 3-4 at the plate while also adding three runs scored. Morley’s play this season has impressed Goheen enough to where she’s made Morley her new lead-off hitter, a role given to players who are heavily relied upon to reach first base and one that freshman usually do not get. Morley said being lead-off is a nerve-racking but necessary job.
“With a bunch of high schoolers, and I’m like the first one…it’s a lot of pressure,” Morley said.
When Morley isn’t batting, she’s at right field. She rarely sees any action come her way, however, which is a testament to Collins’ pitching.
“We owe it all to her,” Morley said.
Morley isn’t the only rookie on defense. Freshman Celia Jacobson-Ross and freshman Ari Marshall play second base and catcher, respectively. Jacobson-Ross also feels a fair amount of pressure on her shoulders as a first-year player.
“I think for my first high school games, I’ve done OK,” Jacobson-Ross said. “…It was really nerve-racking coming in to play on the varsity team. I was like, ‘I’m ready to play JV.’ But we don’t have a JV team, so here I am with all these seniors.”
If the Falcons’ second place standing came as a surprise, so too did the poise and play of the Falcons’ newcomers. Collins said the freshmen were difference makers against Archbishop Murphy.
“The freshmen have really stepped up,” Collins said. “Cecilia has done great at second. I don’t even know if she’s made any errors. (Makenna’s) hitting has really stepped up. She got the winning run.”
“Girls are really stepping up and it’s a lot more than we expected,” she added.