Spartans fall to NK in hard-fought debut

Bainbridge shortstop Cara Thompson makes her way to home plate, but gets tagged out by North Kitsap’s Kendal Pieguss in the fifth inning of  Monday’s game. Bainbridge lost 3-0. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Bainbridge shortstop Cara Thompson makes her way to home plate, but gets tagged out by North Kitsap’s Kendal Pieguss in the fifth inning of Monday’s game. Bainbridge lost 3-0.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

But players and coaches cite big improvements from a year ago.

Although the Bainbridge fastpitch team opened its season with a 3-0 loss to North Kitsap on Monday, the score reflects how much the team has improved over the past year.

“Last year (against North) the score was a lot to a little,” head coach Liz McCloskey said, recalling a 16-0 defeat. “To come in here and play the way we did and be aggressive, I think we could have won.”

Spartan sophomore pitcher Karen Robinson went the entire seven innings and took the loss, but pitched well. She gave up three runs, two of which were earned, on nine hits. She walked two and struck out one.

Robinson said spending her freshman year on varsity helped immensely in dealing with the pressure of pitching.

“Last year was the first high school game I ever played, so it was nerve-wracking,” she said.

There were some nerve-wracking moments for the Spartans from the get-go, but Robinson got out of jams with some great defense from her teammates. Catcher Meika Monroe gunned down Viking Ashley Tobin as she was trying to steal second and second baseman Brittany Wisner turned a double play — all in the third inning.

But the Bainbridge bats struggled against pitcher Rachel Kramer, who went four innings for the win. She struck out seven and gave up just one hit.

“She’s a tough pitcher but we’ve seen these speeds if not faster,” McCloskey said. “It’s something we can definitely hit, and I think come Wednesday, we’ll be ready for it.”

After four and a half innings of scoreless ball, North finally broke through in the fifth inning when Jordan Jewitt singled, then worked her way to third and scored on a passed ball.

Bainbridge finally got a runner on base in their half of the fifth against reliever Kendal Pieguss when Cara Thompson singled.

She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Robinson, then to third on a passed ball, but left too late on another passed ball and was tagged out at home.

The Vikings added another run on a RBI single by Hannah McCluskey in the sixth and on a Spartan error in the seventh.

But Bain­bridge wouldn’t fold. In the sixth, Monroe and rightfielder Anna Lyons both singled, but centerfielder Kelcee Azure popped out, Wisner struck out and leftfielder Chelsea Kakela grounded out on a bang-bang play.

In the seventh, the Spartans worked the bases full as shortstop Cara Thompson singled and Lindsay Willmann and Monroe walked with two outs, but Wisner flied out to first for the final out.

Despite the loss, McCloskey felt they kept pace with the Vikings, who placed seventh in the 4A state tournament in Tacoma last year.

“For the first game with a new group of girls, I went with my gut and started four freshmen. They did pretty well,” she said. “We definitely had chances to get two or three runs. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t pull it through, but I think those are the little things that will slowly come to us in time.”

Robin­son said the players are much more comfortable with each other.

“We have better team chemistry so we work better together,” she said. “We’ve all played with each other before and that helps a lot.”

Bainbridge travels to North Kitsap today, then hosts Rainier Beach Friday.

Both games are at 3:30 p.m.

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