Fastpitch: Wolves' state dreams derailed again at districts

It might have been sufficient even in the interim. South Kitsap entered the Class 4A West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament as the Narrows League’s No. 1 seed for a second time in as many years.

But that position has meant little for the Wolves as they once again went winless and were eliminated from the fastpitch playoffs Friday at Tacoma’s Sprinker Recreation Center.

“I’m flabbergasted,” South coach Kathy Ballew said. “I’m just really disappointed.”

The Wolves (17-5) needed to win just once to advance to the second day of the tournament. A pair of victories would have placed them in state for the first time since 2003.

But an 11-4 setback against Kentwood (11-14), which entered the tournament as the 4A South Puget Sound League’s No. 9 seed, put South in a loser-out game against Auburn Riverside (16-6).

It appeared the Wolves might advance despite trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out, Ericka Hobson singled and Erika Henderson then reached on a ground ball bobbled by second baseman Ashley Fraser. Tonya Forster followed with a single to left field to load the bases. But Charlie Brown struck out and Julie MacMillan grounded out to end the game.

The latter generated some vocal displeasure from South’s bench as some thought the ball landed in foul territory. Ballew said she did not have a good view of the play, but felt it was irrelevant.

“It’s not even a thought,” she said.

Why not?

“If we had some timely hitting, it might have been a different outcome,” said Ballew, whose team was 2 of 9 with players in scoring position.

It also marked the second time during the contest where the bottom two hitters in the order were up with at least one runner in scoring position. In both situations, lead-off hitter Meagan Ransier, who finished 2 for 4, was left in the on-deck circle.

In addition to the Wolves’ hitting woes, Ballew was not enamored with her team’s fielding. She noted that they made two errors in the first inning against the Conquerors and those struggles continued versus the Ravens.

Third baseman Forster tried to get Alyssa Jarman out on a fielder’s choice at second base on a ground ball by Brenna Clarke with one out in the second inning, but she was safe. Two batters later, pitcher Ashley Chamberlin bobbled a Megan Lindren ground ball, which allowed Jarman to score.

Auburn Riverside extended its lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning on an inside-the-park home run as Jamie Koeing slid into the plate before Ransier could apply the tag.

But the Wolves evened the score in the fifth inning. Ransier doubled off Jarman to left field and shortstop Alissa Buss singled to center field during the ensuing at-bat. Ransier scored on a sacrifice fly by Emilly Cunningham and Buss followed on a single from Chamberlin.

Cunningham, who started at first base, swapped positions with Chamberlin in the top of the fifth. The former started against Kentwood, and with the temperature staying at more than 70 degrees most of the day, Ballew said she wanted to rest her ace and give Chamberlin some experience.

“She hasn’t had a lot on the mound behind Emilly,” Ballew said. “That will bode well for next year.”

It might have been sufficient even in the interim. But with the bases loaded — and two out — in the eighth, Brown bobbled a ground ball by Sheldon Doyle that scored Hannah Melick.

And with the inability to produce a run in the bottom half of the inning, it ended the careers of Brown, Cunningham, MacMillan, Ransier and Mersades Strobel. That quintet helped South to a 34-10 record the last two seasons.

“Some of these seniors — I wanted it so bad for them,” Ballew said. “I wanted them to see what it was like at state.”

Instead, it ended on Sprinker’s Field No. 5 for the second year in a row.

Kentwood 11, South Kitsap 4Kentwood 330 500 0 11 14 4South Kitsap 200 200 0 4 9 4Bethany Pfaff and Kelsey VanEnglenberg; Emilly Cunningham, Erika Henderson and Ericka Hobson, Ashley Chamberlin. W—Pfaff. L—Cunningham.Leading hitters—Shian Kelly (KW) 2-4 3B run 4 RBI; Hanna Feist (KW) 3-3 3 runs; Hobson (SK) 3-3.

Auburn Riverside 3, South Kitsap 2 (8)Aub. Riverside 010 100 01 3 5 1South Kitsap 000 020 00 2 9 1Alyssa Jarmen and Meghan Lingren; Ashley Chamberlin, Cunningham (4) and Meagan Ransier, Ericka Hobson (4).W—Jarman. L—Cunningham.Leading hitters—Jamie Koenig (AR) 2-4 HR RBI; Hannah Melick (AR) 2-4 run; Tonya Forster (SK) 2-4; Meagan Ransier (SK) 2-4 2B.

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