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Tough loss for Arlington fastpitch in district playoffs
A tremendously successful season for Arlington fastpitch came to a close May 17 as the girls lost a hard-fought 1-0 battle to Shorecrest.
The game took place at Sedro-Woolley at Janicki Fields and allowed Shorecrest to move one step closer to the state tournament. Arlington would not go away easily as they put pressure on Shorecrest in nearly every inning. Unfortunately they could not come up with the big hit when they needed it and seniors Vanessa Taylor, Kaitlyn McAlister, Piper Lycke, Sheena Twitchell and Lacy Moffett-Prueher have played their last game in Eagle uniforms.
Coach Danny Eng admitted it was a tough defeat.
Tonights game was a heartbreaker. Another one-run ballgame. Ive never coached in so many close games as I have this year. We are so close to the point where we win these games and we just cant get over the edge. Ive talked to the girls coming back and they are committed to a summer of hard work. Theyre willing to work and I expect big things upcoming.
As for the game itself, Christina Rayner turned in another excellent performance on the mound. Since being hit in the face by a batted ball one month ago, Rayner has been nearly unstoppable in the circle for Arlington. She wore a protective mask to prevent further injuries and it gave her a more intimidating look on the field. Rayner pitched all seven innings for the Eagles and did not concede any earned runs. Only a third inning error by the Eagle defense opened the door for two ground ball outs to score a run from second base.
For their part on offense, Arlington produced a lot of baserunners but no runs. In the top half of the first inning the Eagles put two runners on with two outs, but Sheena Twitchell struck out to end the threat.
Again in the second, Arlington threatened on offense. Kristen Allen got on with a one-out bunt single and promptly stole second base. Kate Nicely sacrificed her to third bringing up Rayner to bat. Rayner smoked a shot directly toward shortstop that was scooped up and tossed to first for the final out of the inning.
In the fifth, Kristen Allen again got a one-out hit and after another Nicely sacrifice stood on second as Rayner again blasted the ball toward shortstop. Allen attempted to block the vision of the shortstop on the line drive, but she could not prevent the catch of a sure run-scoring single. Another unlucky at-bat for Rayner.
In the sixth inning, Sheena Twitchell provided more hope for Arlington. Her one out single prompted a throwing error by the Shorecrest thirdbaseman and put Twitchell on second base. It brought up Kaitlyn McAlister who struck out looking on some borderline pitch calls from the home plate umpire. Freshman Amanda Lyon pinch hit next and also struck out on similarly called outside corner pitches.
In defense of the umpiring, the ump didnt help Shorecrest batters a lot either. So even if the calls were consistently bad, at least they were consistent.
The outgoing seniors played well for Arlington. Sheena Twitchell finished the game 2-3 with two singles. Kaitlyn McAlister made a number of fine plays at third base. Vanessa Taylor played her usual solid centerfield. There will be some holes to fill for the team moving forward, but a core group returns that should give Arlington a chance to advance to State.
Arlington fastpitch conquers Ferndale, falls to Everett
The district playoffs are a priveledge extended to only eight softball teams and this year, for the first time in a long time, Arlington is one of them. However, the Eagles are no accidental invite, they earned the right to be here through a season of hard work and gutting out wins. On May 15 they showed they belong on the bigger stage, dropping Ferndale 2-1 behind the pitching of Christina Rayner.
Rayner, coming back recently from a traumatic head injury, was simply unstoppable in the circle for Arlington. She did not allow a hit for six innings and, if not for the brutal afternoon heat, likely would have finished off a complete game no-hitter.
For the first four innings Rayner could simply not be touched. She struck out six Ferndale hitters, and faced the exact minimum number of hitters possible. The only blemish was a one out walk, conceded in the top half of the fourth inning, which promptly turned into a double play to end the inning. Kristen Allen and Kate Nicely combined to turn the double play and make sure Ferndale could not mount a rally.
While Ferndale struggled at the plate, Arlington could not take advantage in their offensive half of innings. In the first inning the Eagles put runners on second and third base with only one out, but a strikeout by Lisa Allen and a groundout from Sheena Twitchell ended the threat with no damage done. That was Arlingtons best chance to score for a long stretch of the game, until the fifth inning when two substitutes nearly broke open the game for the Eagles. With two outs in the fifth, Kristin Wright pinch-hit for Andrea Summers and drew a walk. Amanda Lyon pinch-hit for Vanessa Taylor behind her and smoked a single into right-center field. The speedy Wright attempted to go first to third on the play and looked to slide in barely ahead of the tag of Ferndales third baseman. But the umpire saw it differently and Wright was ruled out, ending the inning.
As the game wore on Rayner started to tire just a bit. She was no longer getting strike-outs and had to rely on her defense to aid her cause. Fortunately they came through for her, including several put-outs from third baseman Kaitlyn McAlister in the fifth and sixth innings.
Finally Arlingtons offense came through for Rayner in the sixth. Kristen Allen was beaned by a pitch to start the inning and Kate Nicely dribbled a ball past the Ferndale pitcher that Ferndales shortstop attempted to pick up and throw to second base for a force-out. The throw was wide of the base, causing the covering secondbaseman to step off the bag to prevent it from flying into centerfield. Allen stood up safely on the bag. Rayner aided her own cause next with a perfect sacrifice bunt, both runners advancing on the play. It was up to Lisa Allen to put Arlington ahead. Allen came through, placing a ball between the first and second baseman, fielded late by the first baseman as Kristen Allen raced home to score. Sheena Twitchell followed up hitting into a fielders choice that scored Arlingtons second run.
Finally, in the bottom half of the seventh inning, Ferndale got some offense going. Rayner clearly appeared tired as she conceded a lead-off double to a girl that had struck out twice previously. A single followed and the game suddenly became in doubt. Coach Danny Eng chose to leave Rayner in after a long discussion at the mound and Rayner did not disappoint. Vanessa Taylor made an excellent running catch in centerfield for out number one. Then Taylor made another huge play as the next Ferndale batter singled. The ball was headed into the gap but Taylor cut it off with a backhand stab mid-stride. She turned and fired toward the infield, keeping lead runner at second base. Rayner knuckled down and struck out the next batter for two outs. Then she got a ground ball to shortstop for an easy toss across the infield to end the game.
Afterwards Rayner was completely spent and laid down on the foul territory grass and had to be coerced to speak.
It felt good to be in the circle today. Our defense was solid all game, we didnt make a single error.
Coach Danny Eng said his troops were nervous.
We havent been here in a while. This is our first district tourney in something like ten years. Im very proud of the way we performed in the first game. We just need two more wins to really make this special.
In the second game of the afternoon, played just 20 minutes after the first, Arlington took on Everett. Allie Milless pitched an absolute gem, holding the Seagulls scoreless for the first seven innings. But Arlington could not get anything going in their favor offensively and the game went into extra innings. In district games, extra innings are played using the international style tie-breaker in which each team starts every inning with a runner on second base to put pressure on the defense. Arlington scored in their top half of the eighth inning to make it 1-0, but Everett answered in the bottom half of the inning to knot the game back up. Finally in the bottom half of the tenth inning, Everett scored again to win 2-1.
Arlington now plays Shorecrest on Thursday May 17 in a loser-out game.