SULTAN — The Sultan softball team needed to win just one game on Thursday afternoon to clinch the No. 2 seed for next week’s district tournament.
But the Turks weren’t happy settling for one victory.
Sultan swept a doubleheader with Archbishop Murphy — winning the first game 6-2 and the second 8-0 — to secure the Cascade Conference’s No. 2 seed in the 2A District 1/2 tournament that begins Wednesday at Janicki Fields in Sedro-Woolley.
“We’re feeling really good. Our girls played probably the best defensive game I’ve seen them play all season,” said Sultan head coach Garth MacDicken. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. … As a coach I couldn’t have asked for anymore. This is exactly what we want. I’ve never had one of my teams that has bonded this well together. They love each other and it shows. They’re playing hard for each other.”
Archbishop Murphy (10-8 league, 11-9 overall), which beat Sultan 2-1 earlier in the season, had its season end with the second loss. The Wildcats needed to win at least one game to clinch the Cascade Conference’s final seed to the district tournament. However, the two losses, coupled with a 6-4 victory by Lakewood, gave the Cougars the No. 3 seed.
“It’s been a hard day,” said Wildcats’ head coach Stephanie Harmon. “We had to at least get one of those wins but we didn’t do it. We had our fate in our own hands.”
Shelby Jeffries shined in both games for the Turks. In the first game she batted 2-for-4 with a double and a solo home run over the “208” sign in center field. She also pitched all seven innings for Sultan, getting the win and striking out 13 batters.
Jeffries followed that up with a 3-for-3 performance in the second game, with a double and three RBI. Over the two games, Sultan combined for 14 runs on 20 hits.
“The whole team got hits,” MacDicken said.
According to MacDicken, it’s the first time Sultan (14-4 league, 15-4 overall) has clinched a berth in the district tournament.
“This is the first time that we’ve ever earned our way into districts,” MacDicken said. “We’ve been in a play-in game once and then other than that this is the first time Sultan’s earned its way into districts. I think a long time ago — way before I got here — everybody went into districts one year. This is the first year we’ve made it in, earning our way in.”
It was a busy day for Sultan, which had to make up a rescheduled game with Archbishop Murphy. The Turks were designated the away team at their own field in the first contest, and had a ceremony honoring the team’s five seniors before game two.
Courtney Morris, game two’s winning pitcher, also contributed for Sultan in both games, going 2-for-3 with two RBI doubles in game one and had four RBI — three of which came on a double with the bases loaded — in the second contest.
Between the two games, all five Sultan seniors — Morris, Randi Tuggle, Lexi O’Brien, Rachel Kirkpatrick and Cheyanne Kole — reached base at least once.
“It was really nice for me to bring one senior in (Kole) who’s a first year player and she had a bunt base hit,” MacDicken said. “I don’t know why that sticks out to me really well. And then Randi Tuggle, another senior. I’ve coached a long time but when Randi hit a triple in the first game I literally felt emotional just watching her hit that. It was such a great feeling to see her at home, getting a big hit like that on senior night. I thought that was a really special moment.”
MacDicken said getting to the district tournament was a goal his team had from the beginning of the year. The coach, who has coached some of the players on Little League teams since they were eight years old, thinks this Turks team has the potential to do something special in the postseason.
“There’s not a lot of experience but a good part of this team is girls that have been playing tournament ball for a long time,” MacDicken said. “They’re kind of used to high-pressure games and high-pressure situations. Some of the girls have traveled all over the United States playing softball. Hopefully, their preparedness will help the girls that have never been in a situation like that.”
Harmon praised her team for its resilience after star infielder Gemma Miller got injured during the season. Miller, a first-team all-Cascade Conference player as a junior, left a big hole to fill when she went down and Harmon was pleased with the way the Archbishop Murphy players stepped up in her absence.
“(I’ll remember) just how much heart they gave,” Harmon said. “When Gemma went down … the girls stuck with it. They didn’t let up. Even the new girls, who hadn’t played before, they came out and their bats came alive.
“We’re a very young team, we’re only graduating (three) seniors. Most of these girls will be back next year and we’ve got a shot as going as far we allow ourselves to go. We’ll just get out there next year and get it.”
At Sultan H.S.
Shelby Jeffries and Rachel Kirkpatrick. Baylee Robertson and Alyson Matriotti. WP—Jeffries (9-4). LP—Robertson (10-8). 2B—Jeffries (S), Courtney Morris (S) 2. 3B—Randi Tuggle (S). HR—Jeffries (S). Records—Sultan 14-4 league, 15-4 overall. Archbishop Murphy 10-8, 11-9.
Courtney Morris, Shelby Jeffries (5) and Rachel Kirkpatrick. Baylee Robertson, Megan Ehlebracht (5) and Alyson Matriotti. WP—Morris (5-0). LP—Robertson (10-8). 2B—Jeffries (S), Courtney Morris (S), Belle Ellis (S). Records—Sultan 14-4 league, 15-4 overall. Archbishop Murphy 10-8, 11-9.