SNOHOMISH — On a hot, summer day years ago, Iyanla Pennington brought ice to a youth softball game in an attempt to stay cool. Her teammates promptly began calling her “Ice,” and the nickname stuck.
Thursday afternoon, with her Jackson softball teammates referring to her as “Ice” in their dugout chants, the sophomore pitcher’s nickname proved particularly fitting.
Pennington coolly escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, fanning the heart of Snohomish’s order with three consecutive strikeouts to highlight a stellar pitching performance that led Jackson to a 3-1 non-league win over the defending Class 4A state champion Panthers at Valley View Middle School.
“She was ice in those situations,” Jackson coach Kyle Peacocke said of Pennington’s pivotal third-inning escape job. “Just cool, calm, collected.”
Pennington, who came within one strike of a complete-game shutout, allowed one run while scattering eight hits in seven innings pitched. She recorded 13 strikeouts and only one walk for the Timberwolves (2-0), who placed fourth in last year’s 4A state tournament.
“She was on,” Snohomish coach Lou Kennedy said. “We’re not an easy team to strike out, and she struck out quite a few of us. That was impressive stuff.”
It was only the third career varsity start in the circle for Pennington, who is replacing standout pitcher Sophie Frost, now a freshman in the Cal State Fullerton University program.
But against a loaded Snohomish lineup that returns nearly every player from last year’s state-championship team, Pennington looked nothing like a sophomore.
“She led our team offensively last year, but we had Sophie Frost (pitching), so this was kind of her first real big test,” Peacocke said. “And she was amazing. I’m just really impressed with her poise.”
Most impressive was Pennington’s back-to-back-to-back strikeouts of Snohomish’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the third inning, which protected an early 1-0 lead after the Panthers loaded the bases with no outs.
“I think she added a little bit extra speed to some of those hitters,” Peacocke said. “Incredible. For a sophomore not to get frustrated in a situation like that and just trust her stuff, it was great.”
“Honestly, I was super nervous and my adrenaline was pumping,” Pennington admitted. “But I just had to get my team back in the dugout and let them score more runs for me.”
Snohomish junior pitcher Bailey Greenlee also delivered a strong complete-game performance, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while recording eight strikeouts and one walk. But Jackson did just enough offensively against Greenlee, who is replacing former Panthers standout and current University of Washington player Alyssa Simons in the circle.
Jackson catcher Sam Mutolo drove in the game’s first run on a first-inning, two-out RBI single into left field that scored Allison Endreson from second base.
The Timberwolves added a run in the fourth when freshman Kassidi Dean lined an RBI double into the right-center-field gap. Then in the fifth, Jackson shortstop Kristina Day crushed a leadoff triple down the left-field line before scoring on an error to provide a 3-0 cushion.
With the way Pennington was pitching, that was a deficit Snohomish (0-1) couldn’t recover from.
“This was really what we needed,” Kennedy said. “We haven’t had any innings, we haven’t seen any pitching. This was our first game, and to face a strong, dominating pitcher is good for us. It really is. We know we can do it. We had some opportunities. We just couldn’t get a hit when we needed to.”
The former Wesco 4A rivals have plenty of recent history against each other. In each of the last two seasons, Snohomish swept the teams’ two regular-season meetings before falling to Jackson in the district-title game.
The Panthers moved down to 3A this season after the recent statewide reclassification, but Kennedy hopes to continue playing Jackson in future non-league games.
“They’re always a good, disciplined, talented team,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been duking it out for the last 10 years. It’s good for us. That’s kind of the reason why we want to (keep) playing each other in the non-conference, because we’re good for each other.”