Close play costs Spartans shot at title

(Top) Bainbridge fastpitch coach Liz McCloskey protests a call in the ninth inning of their 3A state quarterfinal game against Sammamish Friday at the SERA fields in Tacoma.  (Middle) Stephanie Wagner swings at a pitch in the game. (Left) Haylee Baker threw all nine innings against the Totems, giving up one run on nine hits, no walks and struck out four.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photos
(Top) Bainbridge fastpitch coach Liz McCloskey protests a call in the ninth inning of their 3A state quarterfinal game against Sammamish Friday at the SERA fields in Tacoma. (Middle) Stephanie Wagner swings at a pitch in the game. (Left) Haylee Baker threw all nine innings against the Totems, giving up one run on nine hits, no walks and struck out four.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photos

Bainbridge didn’t get the breaks or the calls at the 3A state tournament.

TACOMA – The Bainbridge fastpitch team went through every high and low a team can go through in a day of high pressure situations and tense games where one mistake can finish it.

But ultimately, it was a controversial – and later, an admitted blown – call that helped end their run at the 3A state tournament at the South End Recreation Area in Tacoma.

The Spartans took advantage of three errors in their opening round victory against Timberline 4-2, but lost to one of the tournament favorites in Sammamish 2-1 in nine innings in a quarterfinal game when the umpire made a call on a close play that was later found to be incorrect.

Bainbridge was later eliminated by Hanford 3-1 in a consolation game.

The controversial play came in the ninth inning.

With the international tiebreaker in effect, the Totems advanced Kim McMahon to third on a sacrifice bunt.

Pitcher Haylee Baker got the next batter out on a popout to shortstop Cara Thompson, then got Tina Jacobsen to hit a ground ball to second baseman Chelsie Kakela.

She took a few seconds to get the ball out of her glove, but got it to Karen Robinson to beat her to the bag by a step and a half.

But the field umpire called Jacobsen safe, scoring the run and setting off the Bainbridge side and their fans. McCloskey came out to argue vehemently about the play, but it was in vain.

Kakela felt she got the ball to Robinson in time.

“She was out,” she said. “She was so out. From my angle I thought she was out and I thought I had the same angle as the umpire.

“But he called her safe, which killed everyone,” Kakela continued. “I was really surprised that (head coach) Liz (McCloskey) and (assistant coaches) Nicole (Hebner) and Matt (McCloskey, Liz’s younger brother) did not get thrown out of the game.”

Liz McCloskey felt Kakela took a little too much time in getting the ball out, but she thought the throw was in time as well.

“I do believe she got her by a step or two,” she said. “It was so close. But those things happen.”

Catcher Brittany Wisner said the home plate umpire even admitted to her it was the wrong call.

“I just looked at him and said ‘Can you do anything?’ and he said ‘I can’t really do anything unless he asks me,’” she said. “He just looked at me and smiled and said ‘She was out.’”

The call marred what was a fantastic game between both teams.

Baker went all nine innings and held Sammamish to that one earned run on nine hits. She didn’t walk anybody and struck out four.

Sarah Minice, the two time Kingco 3A MVP and a Seattle Times Star Times’ team selection, went all nine innings as well and gave up no earned runs while striking out 13.

But she hit a batter and gave up four hits – two less than the last five teams that have played the Totems have done combined, including Metro League rivals Nathan Hale, Bishop Blanchet and Holy Names.

Minice had thrown six straight shutouts, including two no-hitters, before the Spartans got to her for what they could.

“Sarah’s a great pitcher and she can do some great things,” McCloskey said. “(But) we can say that we hit against her. Holy Names didn’t. Blanchet couldn’t.

“It doesn’t surprise me that we could hang with her,” she continued. “I have good hitters. They’re very good at what they do.

“I think they were a little intimidated by her at first, but at the same time if they stay in the box, they can do some great things.”

“I’m really proud of our team for sticking through that and holding them the way they did,” Kakela said.

Sammamish scored first in the fourth inning when Katie Madsen reached on an error by Thompson and would eventually score on a pair of errors.

Bainbridge got the run back when Wisner doubled sharply down the left field line, then scored when Kaitlin Gaspitch’s ground ball was misplayed by second baseman Jacobsen.

Both teams had chances to win in the eighth, but the Totems couldn’t push their runners across the plate.

The Spartans came even closer when Thompson made it to third on an error, but Minice got Lindsay Willmann to ground one back to her to end the inning.

Bainbridge still had a chance to win in their half of the ninth, but Stephanie Wagner struck out, Robinson popped one up to the catcher on a bunt attempt and Wisner flied out to right field when Elizabeth Guilford made a great running catch.

Against Timberline in their opening round game, Bainbridge had trouble getting their bats going against pitcher Annaleisha Parsley.

She struck out 13, ten of which came in the first four innings.

“I was so nervous,” Willmann said. “I was shaking and I couldn’t sleep the night before.”

“I don’t even know what was going on in the first game,” Kakela said. “I had a hard time focusing for the first couple of innings and I don’t think I was the only one because we were all tired from the night before.

“But once we got into it it was OK.”

The Spartans also capitalized on three errors by the Blazers.

It started in the fifth when Wisner got on board when she hit a hard ground ball off the third baseman’s glove.

She scored when Wagner doubled in the right centerfield gap, then Wagner scored on a base hit by Chelsea Baker when the throw to the catcher got by her.

Timberline tied it on a ground out in the next inning, but Bainbridge got the runs back when the shortstop dropped a fly ball by Kakela. She was sacrificed to second by Thompson, then scored on a single by Willmann.

Wagner then singled to score courtesy runner Victoria Wellbrock.

Willmann got the start and although she struggled at times (giving up six walks and nine hits) she struck out nine and was backed up by her defense, which committed no errors.

It wasn’t the same against Hanford.

Willmann got the start as she threw six innings, giving up a walk and four hits while striking out two.

Bainbridge gave up two unearned runs in the fourth inning when Stacey Stanhope hit a grounder to third, but Robinson couldn’t handle Haylee’s throw, scoring Liz Homer and Chelsea Haken.

The Spartans got the run back on a RBI single by Kakela, but that was it.

They had their chances, but Wisner was the most snakebit – she hit one hard to the gap in the third inning with the bases loaded, but it was caught by the leftfielder.

Then in the fifth, with runners on second and third, she hit a ground ball deep in the hole to the shortstop.

The Spartan fans thought she beat the throw by a step, but the field umpire called her out.

“It’s just hard when we get shafted so many times,” Wisner said.

The Falcons pushed another run across in the seventh off of Haylee.

Wagner felt the emotional toll of the Sammamish game and the physical toll of the entire day was too great to overcome.

“A lot of the girls, especially our pitchers, were just tired,” she said. “Lindsay’s injured and having to pitch two games with that injury – it’s hard.

“I really think the fatigue of being out here for so long really got to people.”

Even though the team fell short of placing at state, the Spartans are in great shape for next year.

They lose four seniors and will have just one in Robinson next year while returning nine players – all juniors or younger.

“We’ll be better next year,” Haylee said.

“The next couple of years are going to be a lot of fun,” McCloskey said. “The seniors have been great for this program, but these sophomores are going to do great things.

“I truly look forward to the future of this program and this team,” she continued. “We made history this year and we’ll make even more the year after that and the year after that.”

McCloskey will also coach at the annual Kitsap County fastpitch all-star game this Friday at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Silverdale.

There will be two games played – one at 4 p.m. and one at 6 p.m.

Joining her will be Wisner, Kakela, Willmann and Thompson.

Bainbridge finished with a record of 19-9.

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