MONROE — On the softball diamond, McKenzie Schulz is probably known more for her accomplishments in the pitching circle. She’s primarily a hurler for her traveling squads, and she was named to the all-Wesco 4A second team as a pitcher last season.
But Schulz has some hitting prowess as well. She proved that Tuesday, recording two crucial hits to lead the Monroe softball team to a 3-2 eight-inning win over visiting Edmonds-Woodway.
With her team down 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Schulz crushed a long home run over the left-field fence to tie the game at 2-2. One inning later, her single scored Morgan Allen with the game-winning run.
“It felt good to do that because it gave our whole team a boost of confidence,” Schulz said. “We had been (struggling) in the later innings (in previous games), so it was good for us to finish strong.”
Oh, and she completely dominated the Warriors’ hitters in her three innings of relief, striking out seven of the 11 batters she faced.
“If she continues to pitch like she did today, she’ll set a lot of records,” said Bearcats coach Mike Birch. “She showed improvement last year. She’s continuing to figure things out. She’s maturing, making progress with the mental side of the game, learning how to handle pressure. She can be a shutdown pitcher.”
Schulz, a hard-throwing left-hander, said her curveball was effective Tuesday.
“Usually I’m a curveball pitcher,” the junior said, “but if I notice that the other team is struggling (to catch up to pitches) on the outside, I’ll light them up out there as much as I can until they prove they can hit it.”
Monroe (3-2) fell just short of qualifying for the 4A state tournament last season, but enters this spring as one of the Wesco 4A favorites. The Bearcats return five all-conference players, including shortstop Allen and center fielder Megan Rybar.
“We’re confident,” Birch said. “I tell people we look real good on paper. We’re working hard on our mental approach. The key to our season will be our ability to play a complete game. We’ll start running into good teams, and in those games, one play can make a difference.”
Edmonds-Woodway is similar to Monroe in several ways. The Warriors fell one game short of qualifying for the 3A state tournament last season, but are poised to make a postseason run this spring thanks to the efforts of several returning all-leaguers such as pitcher Kyra Collingridge and second baseman Kendra Cooper.
Collingridge pitched 7⅓ innings Tuesday, surrendering just four hits but walking five and hitting one. Edmonds-Woodway (0-2) allowed five hits but was limited to two singles by three Bearcats pitchers.
“We want to get back to state, and if we can take care of business in the Wesco 3A South, we should have a good chance,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Mike Venable said. “We lost only one starter from last year. We’re a solid team. For us, it’s just a matter of scoring enough runs. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”