SNOHOMISH — Snohomish High’ undefeated softball team hasn’t had to play many close games this season, but the Panthers certainly know how to handle themselves when a close one comes along.
Snohomish’s Rachel Crippen scored on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory over Jackson in a game that featured the top two Wesco 4A teams.
“They just have a can-do attitude,” Snohomish head coach Lou Kennedy said of his Panthers. “They just think, ‘Whatever it’s going to take we’ll get it done.’ Sometimes it makes me nervous because they think we’ll get it eventually and I’m like, ‘How about now.’”
With the score tied 2-2, Crippen led off the bottom of the seventh inning with an infield single. Morgan Greenlee followed with a single to center field to give the Panthers runners on first and second with nobody out and dangerous senior Trysten Melhart coming to the plate.
On the second pitch of Melhart’s at-bat, Crippen and Greenlee both advanced one base on a passed ball. With first base now open, the Timberwolves elected to intentionally walk Melhart, who had hits in her first three at-bats.
With the bases loaded and Snohomish needing just a run to win the game, Jackson’s only option on any ground ball was to throw home. Jennie Winston hit that ground ball and the throw home was not in time to stop Crippen from scoring the game-winner.
Melhart had scored Snohomish’s first two runs, one coming in the first inning and the other in the third. Both times Melhart reached base with a double and later scored on Katlyn Purvis’ single.
“She leads the game off with a double and we score,” Kennedy said of Melhart. “The next time up she gets a double and we score. I wouldn’t have pitched to her at the end (of the game) either because she’s just lighting the ball up.”
As they have for much of the season, Melhart’s teammates finished what she started — this time it was Purvis.
“Other than Trysten, she’s probably our most consistent player,” Kennedy said of Purvis. “She’s very patient and she’s got a really good eye. If you pitch her in, she’s going to pull (the ball) and it’s going to go a long way. If you pitch her away, she’s just going to lay it in the gap and run.”
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Jackson’s offense finally countered. Freshman Taylor Adams line-drive solo home run to left field cut the deficit to one and started a Timberwolves’ rally.
“You watch that swing and it was effortless, square contact,” Kennedy said of Adams. “She’s going to do some really great things.”
After a single by pitcher Sophie Frost and a double by Juliana Faulconer, Lauren Steck, the courtesy runner for Frost, scored on an throwing error by Snohomish pitcher Bailey Seek, to tie the score.
Seek struck out the next two batters to keep the damage to just two runs.
Kennedy replaced Seek with sophomore Alyssa Simons in the top of the fifth inning. Despite entering the game in a stressful situation, Simons didn’t allow a run and gave up just two hits in the final three innings.
“This is probably, since the beginning of the year, the first time I’ve made a pitching change because they’ve been just dominant,” Kennedy said. “If I don’t have to make a pitching change I typically don’t, but it was interesting today to get to do that because I wanted to see how Alyssa would do coming into a game, especially a tough game — and she came in and rocked. She was great.”
Hits and runs weren’t easy to come by for either side. Aside from Melhart and Purvis, Snohomish’s potent offensive lineup didn’t have much success against Frost.
“Sophie threw so well,” Kennedy said. “She busted the ball in, she had the curve away and she had the changeup working. You’re just not going to get a ton of hits when someone’s throwing the ball that well. So you’ve got to make the ones you do get count.”
Snohomish improved to 10-0 in league and 16-0 on the season. Having all but locked up the Wesco 4A north championship, the Panthers are now also four wins away from completing a perfect regular-season.
Kennedy said he hopes his the perfect record isn’t a distraction for his team.
“There are coaches out there, and sometimes I’m one of them, that think if we lose a game that’s fine, let’s get it over with so we can get going again,” he said. “For this group, their mindset is we’ll just win them all and keep going.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Snohomish H.S.
Jackson 000 200 0 — 2 7 0
Snohomish 101 000 1 — 3 8 1
Sophia Frost and Kayla Ellis. Bailey Seek, Alyssa Simons (5) and Jennie Winston. WP—Simons (5-0). LP—Frost (10-3). 2B—Trysten Melhart (S) 2, Juliana Faulconer (J), Sarah Casel (J). HR—Taylor Adams (J). Records—Jackson 7-3 league, 12-3 overall. Snohomish 10-0, 16-0.