Granite Falls saw a different team when they played South Whidbey softball earlier this season.
The Falcons were shutout in their first meeting March 17. Playing at home Wednesday afternoon, however, the Falcons had the Tigers on the ropes, albeit for a brief while. The Falcons tied the Tigers at 2 in the second inning, but a three-run third inning by Granite Falls ultimately dispelled South Whidbey’s hopes at an upset.
The Falcons lost 11-3.
“I know that they scored a lot of runs compared to us, but they were just on little things,” Falcon head coach Alexandra Walter said. “There’s a lot of things that we’ve been working on. I feel like it finally clicked.”
“Compared to the first time that we played these guys, they’re doing way better. They’re actually making plays, they look like a ball team. They’re going to where they need to go,” she added.
South Whidbey fell to 2-12 overall and 1-11 in the Cascade Conference, while the Tigers improved to 9-5 overall and 8-4 in league.
“We were all determined because we wanted to win this and I think we fought well,” said junior catcher Leah Merrow. “I think we had really good effort and we cheered all the way through and had a lot of energy. A lot of great plays.”
Sophomore pitcher Mackenzee Collins threw 13 strikeouts while going 1-for-3 with an RBI double in the bottom of the first inning. Junior shortstop Kacie Hanson went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
“Our hitting was definitely a lot better,” Collins said. “Some of the new girls getting hits, and Kacie’s good hit, and just putting a bat on it even if they don’t get on base. We did a lot better staying up on ourselves in the dugout too, so I was proud of that.”
South Whidbey trailed by two runs after the top of the first inning. Hanson led off by reaching base on an error and was eventually scored by Collins’ double with two outs. Collins prevented the Tigers from pulling ahead in the top of the second by throwing two strikeouts and forcing a fly out. Freshman Myah Majestic drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning, followed by a single by freshman Nadine Kinskie. Hanson then connected on a single to score Majestic, tying the game. Merrow said she could sense some tension in the Tigers players.
“It was a little motivation; I think everybody felt that even if it wasn’t a spoken out thing,” Merrow said. “We all felt that and wanted that and it was a common desire for the whole team. It drove us to try harder, do better and make less errors.”
The Tigers pulled ahead in the top of the third on a two-run RBI double with two outs. Collins ended the inning by forcing a groundout, but the damage was already done.
Leading 5-2, Granite Falls added two runs in the top of the fifth on a two-run double. Falcon sophomore Rebekah Merrow led off with a single followed by a walk by sophomore Bella Northup. Two Falcons were hit by pitches from Granite Falls junior Dannica West, the second of which scored Rebekah Merrow.
Kinskie grounded out with the bases loaded, preventing the Falcons from closing the gap further.
The Tigers added four runs in the top of the seventh, during which time Collins and Leah Merrow had trouble connecting with one another from the mound to the batter’s box. Wild pitches and walks allowed two Tigers to reach base, further aiding in the Tigers’ effort to increase their lead.
“I was letting go of it too soon and that’s why it either went low, and I would try to compensate, and then it would go too high,” Collins said. “I just need to settle in a little more.”
Though the end result wasn’t a victory, Collins said the team was more confident than she’d seen previously. Walter commended Leah Merrow for what she felt was one of her best games of the season, after she chased down loose pitches and made throws to the first and third basemen in attempts to get runners out.
Collins said the goal for the remainder of the season, which includes two home games against Sultan, May 3 and Lakewood, May 9, is to keep up their energy and confidence no matter what team they are facing.
“We can play with them as long as we try our best and really get at it,” Collins said.
The Falcons could secure the second seed in the 1A District 1 tournament if they beat Cedar Park Christian in a doubleheader May 11.