"Fastpitchers win, clinch playoff spot"

"If experience is indeed the best teacher, the Spartan fastpitchers learned their lessons well over the weekend.After an 11-6 loss to North Kitsap Friday, they rebounded Monday to rout Port Townsend 12-1 in five innings.The win at Port Townsend clinches a playoff spot, and confirms the revival of the recently moribund program.In the loss to North, the Sparts showed talent, but the villain was inconsistency. In the first inning, a walk and a hit batter put two Vikes aboard with one out, but Bainbridge emerged unscathed when Angie Rapada and Anne Vail both made tough plays on ground balls.After shutting down the visitors, Bainbridge jumped to a quick lead. Amanda Perna walked with one out, then advanced to third on passed balls. Brooke Hopkins followed with a walk. In trying to steal second, she drew a throw that not only was too late, but allowed Perna to score from third. After a strikeout, Caiti Kruse bunted, and Hopkins was safe at home on an interference call. Chelsea Magraw then hit an infield single, and Kruse alertly came home from third.Bainbridge's outstanding defense in the second made it look like a 3-0 lead might be enough. Rapada made a difficult play at third for the first out. The next batter walked, but Perna gunned her down trying to steal second. Vail made another solid play to end the inning.But the wheels fell off for Bainbridge in the third. Two singles, combined with a strikeout and groundout, put runners on second and third with two down. A wild pitch scored one runner, and a walk put runners on the corners. The next batter tapped to the infield, and instead of going to first for the final out, the ball came home, and the runner slid under the tag. Two more grounders were muffed, then a shot to left cleared the bases, giving North five runs in the inning.Bainbridge retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. With one down, Vail was safe on an errant throw to first, McKenzie walked and Perna's single scored Vail. After a double steal put runners at second and third, Krista Bucat's texas-leaguer fell between second base and left field, bringing both runners home, and giving Bainbridge a 6-5 lead.The lead proved short-lived. Bainbridge bobbled two grounders, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. In an obvious bunt situation, the infield played in with the outfielders covering the bases. The bunt came, but the throw sailed over first, and with nobody backing up, all three runners scored, giving the visitors an 8-6 lead they never relinquished.We made too many mental errors, coach Bill Clement said. They didn't beat us. We beat ourselves.But the Sparts turned things around completely against Port Townsend on Monday. They scored in every inning. And although Port Townsend put the ball into play - there were only two strikeouts - the Sparts made only one error. And unlike the NK game, the defense performed in difficult situations. In the second inning, the host Redskins scored their only run, and had two on with only one out. But a strikeout and a fielder's choice ended that threat. They had runners on base in most innings, Clement said, but we played solid defense.The offensive leaders for Bainbridge were sophomore Amanda Perna, who was 2-3 with a triple and three runs batted in, Krista Bucat, 2-4 with three RBI, Caiti Kruse, 2-3, and Chrissy Haugen, who knocked in two runs. Brooke Hilton pitched the first three innings, then Haugen finished.Clement credited the players for pulling themselves out of the doldrums. After I talked to them on Friday, the girls had a team meeting among themselves, he said.Whatever happened seems to have done some good. We were motivated and ready to play ball on Monday.The Spartans' 8-4 league record guarantees that they will finish ahead of Sequim, the league's only other 3A team, which puts Bainbridge back into the playoffs after two miserable seasons.They are one of four teams with four league losses, as unbeaten Central Kitsap pulls away from the pack. Bainbridge has a tough row to hoe, though, with a home doubleheader against CK today, and a visit to Bremerton Friday. If the Sparts can hang on to fourth place or better in the Oly League, they will be the top seed in the district playoffs."

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