LYNNWOOD — The opposing batters may not see it coming, but it’s a sure bet they hear it.
Mountlake Terrace High School softball pitcher Kori Seidlitz lets you know when she’s putting a little extra oomph on a pitch. When she really rears back and lets one fly, the release is accompanied by an emphatic grunt, an exclamation whose volume rises in proportion to the pitch’s velocity.
But it’s pointless for batters to use that as an auditory cue. By the time they hear the grunt, the ball’s already past them, and that grunt was back on full display Wednesday afternoon in the Hawks’ 7-3 victory over the Lynnwood Royals.
“Yeah, they all make fun of me about that,” laughed Seidlitz following her two-hit, 12-strikeout performance against the Royals. “As I get into it I really try to working on snapping it, and I guess I don’t pay attention to that grunt.”
Mountlake Terrace scored four runs in the top of the seventh inning to snap a 3-3 tie, then Seidlitz did her thing by closing the game out with a perfect bottom half, striking out the final two batters of the game.
The victory keeps Mountlake Terrace (8-1 league, 10-3 overall) on pace near the top of the Western Conference South Division, a single game behind first-place Jackson.
And much of the credit for the Hawks’ lofty position belongs with the team’s junior hurler.
“She’s had a phenomenal season,” Mountlake Terrace coach Kim Stewart said of Seidlitz. “All you ask is for a pitcher to keep you in the game and give you a chance to win. She has pitched some gems this year and we did not produce with the bats, but she gives us an opportunity to win every single game.”
Seidlitz, who’s been clocked at 62 mph, is in her second season as Mountlake Terrace’s ace. Last season she helped guide the Hawks to the district playoffs, and this season she’s raised the level of her game another notch.
“I like what’s happened so far,” Seidlitz said. “I really enjoy going out there and throwing strikeouts.
“I really think that with my movement pitches, I’ve taken advantage of the batters by using those,” added Seidlitz, who also gave credit to her catcher, Kayla Watson. “I started using my curve more and started using a drop in this game because I knew which hitters not to pitch to.”
Meanwhile, Lynnwood has a pitcher of its own who’s excelling. Julia Nealer has taken over the pitching reins for the Royals, and she’s helped lead a revival for Lynnwood softball. The junior, though not quite as sharp as Seidlitz on Wednesday, matched Seidlitz’s 12 strikeouts. She’s a key component in why the Royals (5-5, 6-6) are .500 this season after going a dismal 5-17 a year ago.
“She’s helped us when we’ve been down, she’s motivated us, she’s put on a good show,” first-year Lynnwood coach Rachel Sullivan said about Nealer. “She’s led the team very well. She has the ability to really buckle down.
“We’re wowing everybody,” Sullivan added about her team’s improvement this season. “I keep getting compliments from head coaches before every game that, ‘You sure have done a good job with the girls.’ I can’t really take that much credit for myself because it’s all the girls stepping up and playing like a different team.”
That new Lynnwood team took the Hawks to the limit Wednesday, but then things broke down for the Royals in the top of the seventh.
Mountlake Terrace’s rally began with Megan Runkel lacing a single to center. Amanda Kristjanson and McKenzie Dessin followed with sacrifice bunts which the Royals misplayed, pushing Runkel across with the go-ahead run.
But the Hawks weren’t done there. Stephanie McLauchlan slapped a single up the middle to drive in another run, then two more came home when Watson ripped a single off the left-fielder’s glove, giving Mountlake Terrace a comfortable four-run cushion.
The Hawks’ rally made up for a rough defensive inning of their own. Mountlake Terrace was ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the third when the Hawks made a pair of errors, helping the Royals score three to tie it up.
At Lynnwood High School
Lynnwood 003 0000—323
Ko. Seidlitz and Watson. Nealer and Parker. WP—Ko. Seidlitz. LP—Nealer. Records—Mountlake Terrace 8-1 league, 10-3 overall. Lynnwood 5-5, 6-6.