By Aaron Swaney Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Sultan softball head coach Garth MacDicken had a simple message for his star catcher Rachel Kirkpatrick as she came up in a key two-out situation: Hit it hard.
Kirkpatrick fulfilled her coach’s desire.
Tied with Lakewood at 2-2 in the top of the seventh inning, the Sultan catcher smashed a two-out double to left field to score two runs and the Turks held on for a win in a key Cascade Conference showdown at Lakewood H.S. on Tuesday afternoon.
“She has a tendency to try to lift the ball and I just told her hit it hard,” MacDicken said. “See the top of it and hit it hard, and that’s what she did.”
After giving up a lead-off single to Lakewood’s Peyton Cook, Turks starter Shelby Jeffries got the next three batters out, including striking out the final two, to lock down the win for Sultan (5-3 Cascade Conference, 6-3 overall).
Jeffries overcame early struggles to help the Turks remain only a game behind second-place Archbishop Murphy (7-3, 8-3). The Turks starter seemed to get stronger as the game went along, striking out at least two batters in each of the final four innings and not surrendering a run in the final six.
“Shelby just has that fire in her eye,” MacDicken said. “You know when she’s going to start bringing it and she just starts throwing harder and harder. She’s a fighter, that’s for sure.”
Sultan could only muster two hits against Lakewood (4-5, 6-5) starter Hailey Malakowski in the first four innings, but the Turks managed to piece together a scoring rally in the fifth. Trailing 2-0, Sultan got a leadoff single from Belle Ellis, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Daphne Pohaku.
An infield single and walk would load the bases for Sultan, with Ellis scoring the Turks’ first run on a fielder’s choice by Courtney Morris. The next batter, Kirkpatrick, hit a grounder to the left side of the infield for presumably the third out, but a throwing error by Lakewood allowed Bethany Kirkpatrick from second base to tie the score at 2.
In the seventh, Randi Tuggle got an infield single with one out to start the game-winning rally. The senior infielder would move to second on a sac bunt and Morris was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second to set up Rachel Kirkpatrick’s go-ahead hit.
“Later in the game we really started to get some better at-bats,” MacDicken said. “Rachel is big-time player and big-time players step up and make big-time hits.”
In the first inning, Kiana Smith led off with a single for Lakewood. After Jeffries got the next two batters out, Lakewood’s Terah Barrio coaxed a walk and Alexis Lampinen followed with a two-run double to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
Sultan faces Archbishop Murphy in a key Cascade Conference game on Thursday with second place up for grabs. Lakewood travels to take on Cedarcrest on Thursday.
At Lakewood H.S.
Shelby Jeffries and Rachel Kirkpatrick. Hailey Malakowski and Jenna Melton. WP—Jeffries (4-3). LP—Malakowski (6-5). 2B—Alexis Lampinen (L), Rachel Kirkpatrick (S). Records—Sultan 5-3 league, 6-3 overall. Lakewood 4-5, 6-5.