Fastpitchers make comeback, advance to State

After self-destructing in the final innings of Friday’s District 2 Fastpitch Tournament opening round game against West Seattle – the team with the worst record coming into the tournament – the Spartans appeared to be headed for a premature exit after entering with high hopes.

To qualify as the No. 5 seed to the state tournament at that point, the girls had to win four successive loser-out games in a 23-hour period.

They did.

In one of the greatest comebacks in BHS history, the girls demolished Metro League rivals Seattle Prep and Blanchet – who went a combined 0-4 in the tournament despite better regular season records than the Spartans – and eked out one-run decisions against Kingco foes Issaquah and Skyline.

Fittingly, it was Amanda Perna – a four-year veteran of the program – who scored the winning run in the eighth inning on Saturday and ignited a celebration that continued all the way home, with the girls hanging out the bus windows in downtown Winslow and jubilantly letting passersby know that they were going to the state tournament.

“My ears are still ringing,” said coach Steve Nelson. “Perna was huge. She really stepped up. She’s played so well for me the last two years, and she’s one of the best players in the West Sound.”

Moment of truth

“We went in thinking we would slaughter them,” Perna said of the West Seattle game. But although the Spartans took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth against the Indians, and put runners on second and third with no outs, they couldn’t score.

The Indians took advantage of the situation to finally break through against Spartan pitcher Chrissy Haugen, who had a no-hitter to that point. In the last two innings, they parlayed six hits, two official Bainbridge errors and several more mental miscues into five runs and a 6-3 win.

The loss matched the Spartans with an 18-4 Prep team that had beaten them early in the season.

Before the game, Nelson called his troops together.

“I told them that I’ve played and coached a lot of tournament ball,” he said. “There are two kinds of teams. One rolls over and gets out of Dodge. The other sticks together, comes out and plays their game.”

The Spartans gave early notice of their intentions. Logan Mohr and Perna rapped RBI singles in the first, Haugen drove in a run with a bunt in the second, and the Spartans added deuces in both the fifth and sixth as Sara Robinson threw a three-hitter for a 7-1 win.

Against Issaquah, the Spartans trailed 3-1 after five innings but took a 4-3 lead on clutch two-out singles by Chelsea Magraw and Alexis Hujar. Issaquah promptly scored twice to go up 5-4 going into the seventh.

Mohr drew a leadoff walk, Perna doubled her home for the tie and Rapada’s triple plated Perna. Robinson, pitching her second complete game of the day, put down Issaquah in order in the bottom of the seventh to secure the 6-5 win.

The team caught the 10:50 p.m. ferry and most players got to bed after midnight, then had to be at school by 8 the next morning.

“The bus was pretty mellow that morning,” Perna said, “but we told ourselves that we didn’t get up at 7:30 to lose.”

They didn’t. Playing a well-rested Blanchet team that had lost its only other tournament game, “we pounded them,” said Nelson. “We were merciless.”

Perna, Rapada, Ashley Anderson and Magraw drove in first inning runs. Though the Braves answered with two of their own, a four-run Spartan fourth put the game away as Ally Vail, Hujar, Caiti Kruse and Perna all had RBIs. The Spartans tacked on two more in the sixth for a 10-3 win as Robinson picked up her third win.

That set up an early afternoon showdown against Skyline.

Bainbridge scored in the bottom of the first as Perna’s two-out single drove in Haugen. The same combination scratched out another run in the third, Perna hitting into a fielder’s choice to score Haugen. Skyline got one back in the fourth on two Bainbridge errors, then tied the game in the fifth on a pair of hits.

Mohr and Perna had RBI singles to give their team a 4-2 lead in the fifth, but Skyline singletons in the sixth and seventh tied it up.

Perna led off the decisive eighth with a single to left and advanced on a wild pitch. With one out, Anderson singled to right, but Perna held at third. The respite was only momentary. Magraw stroked what Nelson termed “a seeing-eye single over the pitcher’s head,” Perna raced home and the Spartan side went wild.

Robinson again threw a complete game for the win, the team’s 19th in the last 22 games after a 1-5 start. It likely was the first 20-game winning season in BHS history. It also appeared to be the team’s first appearance at state since 1984, long before the switch to fastpitch.

“We’re breaking new ground in a lot of respects,” said Nelson. “We have a great core coming back next year. We’re reloading, not rebuilding.”

The team opens tournament play on Friday at Tacoma’s Sprinker Park with an 11 a.m. game against North Mason.

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