South Whidbey’s softball team was just glad to be at the class 1A state championships.
But, when the Falcons trailed the returning state champion La Center by only one run after the first inning, they realized that just being at state wasn’t enough. They wanted to win.
The Falcons were neck and neck with the Wildcats for most of the game in their first round matchup, but eventually lost 2-0. With elimination at risk, the Falcons recorded 14 hits in a 5-3 rebound win over Chimacum in the consolation bracket.
South Whidbey’s season, however, came to an end with a 4-0 loss to Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), which went on to finish fourth place. It was the third game the Falcons played on Saturday at Columbia Playfield in Richland.
The Falcons finished 13-13 overall.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” freshman catcher Ari Marshall said. “I didn’t expect it to be like that. It was really fun. I thought it was a really good experience, especially as a freshman.”
South Whidbey head coach Alexandra Goheen didn’t know when the softball program had last won a game at state, only that it had been a “long time.” Goheen credited the Falcons’ success to their focus on the nuances of softball, defensive shifts, pitching by Cascade Conference defensive player of the year Mackenzee Collins, and their ability to make plays out on the diamond both offensively and defensively.
Their performance was so encouraging that Goheen is setting the bar even higher next year.
“We were there to compete, which was a huge thing,” Goheen said. “My goal will definitely be winning districts, getting to state and winning a couple games.”
Marshall said the Falcons took the loss to La Center in stride. Six Falcons turned in multi-hit performances against Chimacum, including Marshall who went 2-for-3. Collins also threw 10 strikeouts and went 2-for-4 at the plate. The result of the game was a complete flip from the Falcons’ 10-6 loss to Chimacum in their home opener.
“They’ve improved so much,” Goheen said.
But, Goheen and Marshall thought their performance at state could have been better. Mental mistakes, fatigue and dry Eastern Washington heat were some of the factors that worked against the Falcons.
South Whidbey had a couple hours to rest after its win over Chimacum Saturday afternoon and expected to play Lakeside at about 6 p.m. But, the game eventually began at 7:45 p.m., which sapped some of the Falcons’ strength as they had waited in the hot temperatures, Goheen said.
Goheen said only a few players on the team had ever played multiple games in a day and that it was a obstacle they had to overcome. Ultimately, the Falcons were unable to do so against Lakeside, Goheen said.
“Everybody was exhausted,” Goheen said. “They were trying to pick themselves up and each other up. They were wanting it really bad, but there would be a couple little things that just got to them.”
Goheen said the Falcons’ biggest pitfall was their inability to hit against Lakeside’s pitcher. The Falcons had only one hit.
“If you can’t score runs, you can’t win, no matter how good your defense or pitcher is,” Goheen said.
But, Goheen and Marshall were optimistic about the season overall and are looking forward to improving next year. They will be without seniors Kacie Hanson, Leah Merrow and Aria Ludtke.
“Overall, I was pretty happy because we got that far and we made it farther than most of the teams in our district and we won a game at state,” Marshall said. “Compared to last season, I thought it was a pretty big accomplishment. I was sad because it was the end of the season. I’ll miss seeing all the girls on the softball field. But, overall I think we were all thinking that we deserved to get that far.”