LANGLEY — There were smiles all around Tuesday as the South Whidbey fastpitch softball team overcame Friday Harbor 3-1 in their opening bid.
“After the Wolverines’ lead-off batter fired a double, [Falcon pitcher] Rebecca Stratton dug in her heels to strike out two of three batters to get us out of the first inning with no damage,” Falcon coach Chuck Burton said.
Stratton finished with 15 strikeouts and gave up only four hits.
The Falcons rallied in the second inning, scoring all three runs the team could bring across the plate.
With one out, Falcon catcher Amanda Spalding hit a base shot that just missed the Wolverine shortstop. Stratton came to the plate and advanced Spalding by hitting a hot shot over to third base. This set up Taylor Pope’s RBI looping single over second base, driving in Spalding for the first Falcon score.
Jazmyn Graham was the next batter and she came through with an RBI shot to left field that allowed Stratton to score.
“Jaz and Taylor both went one for two batting with an RBI each,” Burton said.
Kelsie Dorpat drove in Taylor for the final run of the rally and game. South Whidbey shortstop Natasha Roberts was two for three at the plate and had two stolen bases, but she was left standing on third base twice in the game.
The Wolverines threatened to score several times throughout the contest but the Falcon infield, showing surprising presence of mind, shut them down till the bottom of the sixth.
“The Wolverines scored their only run in the sixth inning but could not get another due to the outstanding pitching and catching teamwork of Rebecca and Amanda,” Burton said.
The day ended with a sweet victory for the girls fastpitch softball team.
Stratton has matured since she was the back-up for starting pitcher Alea Robertson the last two years. Stratton has been greatly helped by pitching coach Ashley Lopez, and her level of poise mixed with enthusiasm seemed to provide the Falcons with the kind of leadership that propels a team to the playoffs.
“Rebecca helped us get an awesome start on the season,” Spalding said. “She certainly made life easier for the infield.”
Stratton admitted she was a bit nervous.
“I’m always hoping for a shutout, but I’m happy with today’s win,” she said.
“Ashley taught me a whole new wind-up that is more controlled yet more relaxed. I have to say
I was comfortable on the mound.”
Both girls have been playing softball for more than 10 years, starting in Little League, and now are South Whidbey varsity starters.
“Rebecca and I are starting to build that special bond that we need to be successful,” Spalding noted. “If you don’t have someone solid out there, team morale really goes down. Becca’s solid.”
Both girls agreed that pitching represents at least 40 percent of the game.
“The offense can only do so much if the other team is hitting at will,” Stratton said.
After traveling to Friday Harbor, the girls host Sultan at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, for their Cascade Conference opener.
Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@south