After losing to Snohomish the first two times the Vikings faced the Panthers, Lake Stevens finally broke through on Tuesday -- and they did it on the biggest stage. The Vikings advanced to the 4A district 1 championship game and earned a berth in the state tournament with a 5-3 victory over the Panthers.
"The last time we played Snohomish, it was a one-run game," Lake Stevens head coach Adrianne Lartz said. "We knew it was going to come down to something small and we were the ones that ended up on the other side of that game. We know they are a tough ball club, but after that game we knew we were still in it with them the whole time.
"Everyone just wanted this game so bad because it was the only team we hadn't beaten in our conference this season."
The Vikings never appeared intimidated by the Panthers, despite Snohomish entering the game with just two losses. But after falling behind 3-0 in the early innings, the Vikings were in danger of suffering yet another defeat at the hand of the Panthers.
Then the first of two big swings in the game changed everything.
After pitcher Sierra Card singled to center field and catcher Tehya Harney walked, sophomore Megan Berry tied the score with a three-run home run that just cleared the left field fence. She was mobbed at home plate by her teammates.
"I think the energy picked up (after the home run)," Berry said. "It just felt amazing. It was fun because everybody came out to the plate and the energy was just high."
When the Vikings were down 3-0, spirits were still up, but the team was playing far from perfect. The pitching of Card was keeping Lake Stevens within striking distance.
Barry finally took advantage.
"Down three runs to Snohomish, no one gave up, but you know that's an uphill battle," Lartz said. "Scratching out one run against these guys in difficult, so to get three, we knew we had our work cut out. So when Megan hit that to tie the game it rejuvenated us. It was like, 'we are still in this, we got this.'"
The Vikings faced more adversity in the fifth inning when Card had a cramp in her throwing arm. Lartz and her coaching staff made the decision to pull Card to evaluate her, replacing her with junior Rayne Sylvester.
"Obviously when you have a pitcher like Sierra, you want her in the game," Lartz said. "We needed to check out the situation. We could tell it was affecting her and we wanted to make sure she was okay and keep the game going.
Sylvester pitched 11/3 scoreless innings for the Vikings in relief of Card.
She's just an all-around athlete," Lartz said of Sylvester. "For her to come in -- and she hasn't pitched that much this year at all for us -- so to come in today in a huge game like this and to be able to throw as well as she did. That just shows her mental toughness and her heart that she has."
The Vikings got their second big swing in the top of the seventh. After sophomore Kahlia Kelliher led off the inning with a single to right field, Harney gave her team the lead, driving a fastball over the left-field fence over a leaping Snohomish left-fielder to give Lake Stevens a 5-3 lead.
Harney's home run proved to be the game winner.
"It sure was nice to have those two runs," Lartz said.
"I got a fastball and I just took a solid pitch and drove it out of here," Harney said. "It felt really good because we won the game."
With a lead and a healthy arm, Card returned to the game in the bottom of the seventh and recorded a one-two-three inning to end the contest and send the Vikings to state.
"She's a tough kid," Lartz said. "She came back and said she was ready to go and we're going to give the ball to her."
The Vikings play Arlington in Thursday's district championship game. Snohomish plays Kamiak in a loser-out game that same day.
At Sky River Park
Lake Stevens 000 030 2--5 7 5
Snohomish 002 100 0--3 6 0
Sierra Card, Rayne Sylvester (5), Sierra Card (7) and Tehya Harney. Alyssa Simons and Morgan Greenlee. WP--Card. LP--Simons. HR--Megan Barry (LS), Harney (LS). Records--Lake Stevens 17-5 overall. Snohomish 19-3.
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