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Sports Roundup -- Cheng claims district tennis title/Tough field for Spartan track/Bad inning ousts Spart fastpitchers/Hardballers ready for Monarchs

Cheng claims district tennis title

Whitney Cheng ran her perfect season to 26 wins, leading the Bainbridge Spartan girls tennis team to a second- place finish in the SeaKing Districts held at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle this week.

“Really exciting,” Cheng said of her first district title. “It was a good beginning and a good finish.”

She will take the district’s top seed to her third state tournament appearance at the Nordstrom Tennis Complex on the UW campus June 4-5.

On a 29-game win streak following a loss to defending champion Kasey Knox, Cheng is looking for perfection with the wins needed to take the state title.

The SeaKing District title is the first for Cheng, who sports a school record 85-12 career mark. In 2003 she finished fifth, improving last year to a fourth place finish by virtue of a 4-1 record.

Also sharp was Molly Donohue, whose outstanding season took her all the way to the consolation game at districts.

“Overshadowed by Whitney’s performance was an outstanding year by Molly Donohue,” said tennis coach Mike Anderson of the Spartan sophomore who finished 19-8.

In the final two games at districts, Cheng played nearly flawless tennis, serving well and meeting the best her opponents gave.

In the semifinal, she handled the spins and drop shots of Mercer Island’s Amelia Carpenter “with ease,” Anderson said.

In the final against Julie Phillips of Bellevue, she played probably the best tennis of the season in taking the opening set 6-0.

Throughout the match Cheng was able to consistently hit winners while keeping unforced errors to a minimum.

But it was not all a waltz through the Lower Woodland Park for Cheng, who dropped her first set 5-7 before coming back to win over Newport’s Tiffany Vo, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

“It was scary,” she said. “I was up 4-0, or 4-1, and suddenly felt it slipping away.”

Her coach and father were there to calm her down.

“They told me to breathe,” Cheng said. “They said I should be confident and attack the ball. It was nice to not be alone on the court anymore.”

Asked if she thought the experience, the adversity on the way to her first-ever title, will help in the state tournament, Cheng said, “Definitely. It was a big wake-up call. It taught me how important it was to prepare.

“The other matches I walked on ready to play,” she said. “I woke up ready to play from there on.”

The Bainbridge team said their formal goodbyes at an end-of-year banquet Thursday.

“It was a fun year,” said Cheng, the Spartan captain. “We had a special season.”

– T.F. Smeeth

Tough field for Spartan track

SEATTLE – The Bainbridge Island track team had its work cut out at the Sea-King District 2 Championship Track Meet on Wednesday.

In a tough field of teams from the 3A KingCo Conference and the Metro League, both the boys and the girls did well on a sunny but windy day at the Southwest Athletic Complex across from Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle.

In the final events, Quinton Agosta finished eighth in the javelin throw with a mark of 138 feet, 11 inches, while Clif McKenzie finished tenth in the triple jump with a leap of 39 feet, 1⁄4 inch.

Both missed qualifying for the state meet, as did Bevan Taylor, who finished 11th in the 1600 meter run with a time of 4:41.15, and Caroline Johnson, who stayed with her rival, Holy Names’ Bevin Peters in the 3200 for most of the race until she faltered in the last few laps and finished fifth with a time of 11:15.82.

In the preliminary running events, Alana MacWhorter qualified for the finals when she finished eighth in the 400 meter dash with a time of 1:02.08.

Hillary and Geneva Pritchett qualified for the 800 with times of 2:22.50 and 2:24.38 respectively, while Tess Sadowsky qualified for the 300 meter low hurdles when she finished eighth with a time of 50.94.

Both the girls 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams qualified in their heats with times of 51.92 and 4:07.10 respectively.

The boys’ team did not fare as well, with only the 4x100 relay team qualifying for the final with a time of 45 seconds flat.

During the heat, Angelo Ritualo and Tucker Hannah suffered injuries that cost Ritualo from qualifying in the 400 and caused the 4x400 relay team to scratch when both couldn’t run, and an alternate from Bainbridge was not available.

The finals were held yesterday at the complex. The top four in each event will move on to Star Track next weekend in Pasco.

– John Becerra, Jr.

Bad inning ousts Spart fastpitchers

TUKWILA – Once again, it was that one inning.

The Bainbridge High School fastpitch team has had several games this year in which a single bad inning with a poor throw or a booted ball led to a big inning for the opposition.

And it was the four runs allowed in the first frame on a critical error that led to a 5-1 loss to the West Seattle Wildcats in the opening game of the Sea-King District 2 Tournament at the Fort Dent Softball Complex.

The defeat ended the Spartans’ season at 9-14.

“If you erase that first inning, it was a 1-1 game,” Spartan coach Liz McCloskey. said. “After the jitters were gone and everybody said ‘OK, we’re going to be playing softball today,’ then it was a much better game. They came back and battled with them. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls as a first year coach.”

The Spartans had a chance to score in the first when shortstop Amanda Szarzynski singled and third baseman Stephanie Wagner reached on an error with two outs.

But Wildcat pitcher Lydia Cruz came back to strike out Tabitha Mabrey.

West Seattle got on the board quickly in their half inning. Anna Shodey walked, then stole second. Alyce Crisostomo bunted down the third base line, but Wagner’s throw to first baseman Marci Morford was over her head, allowing Shodey to score and Crisostomo to advance to third.

Ashley Quande singled, then after Cruz grounded out, Andi Albany reached on a base hit. Rachel Hessel then tripled to clear the bases.

Even when the Spartans scored, they couldn’t get a break. In the third inning, Karen Robinson singled, then Szarzynski reached on a fielder’s choice.

Wagner got an infield single, and Mabrey blasted a pitch that bounced over the right field fence for a ground rule double, allowing only Szarzynski to score but stranding Mabrey.

The Wildcats got another run in the fourth when Hessel doubled and would eventually score on a squeeze bunt.

They could have had another in the sixth on a fly ball by Hessel that appeared to be a home run, but Kelcee Azure made the catch of the day as she crashed into the fence, still clinging to the ball.

“That darn well better be an ESPN highlight,” McCloskey said.

Bainbridge tried to rally in the sixth when Azure led off the inning with a single.

Chelsea Hansen hit into a fielder’s choice forcing her at second. Morford singled, but Anna Lyons struck out and Hansen was thrown out trying to advance to third when the catcher dropped the third strike.

McCloskey credited her team with playing well defensively, especially Wagner after she recovered from her error. But they also had too many scoring opportunities wasted. The Spartans outhit the Wildcats 7-5, but they left nine runners stranded for the game.

“We were hitting the ball, but we weren’t converting on those hits,” she said. “That makes it tough to win a game.”

Despite the disappointing end, McCloskey and assistant coach Katie Leigh will have something to build on for 2006.

“As their coach said to me, ‘you’ve got a young group of girls, but you’re going to be outstanding for the years to come,’” McCloskey said. “We’re losing one starter, but we’ve got a tremendous class coming up. It’ll be a great year next year.”

– John Becerra, Jr.

Hardballers ready for Monarchs

The sixth-ranked Spartan baseball team (15-6) is in the 3A state tournament for the first time since 2001, opening play this afternoon.

As the number one seed out of District 3, they will face the seventh-ranked Mark Morris Monarchs (19-5) from the Greater St. Helens League in a loser-out game at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue today at 1 p.m.

Senior Jordan Schager will get the start, with C.J. Hall available if he falters. Coach Jayson Gore hopes he’ll be a “bulldog” on the mound in order for the Spartans to advance.

“He’s gotta keep the ball down,” Gore said. “If he goes after the hitters and works ahead in the count, he’ll be OK.”

Schager said he will try to keep it simple and not think himself to death.

“I’m just going to throw strikes and let the defense work,” he said.

They’ll face Ian Dahl, a left-handed sophomore who, according to the Longview Daily News, has a good change-up and curve and can mix it up to confuse hitters.

Gore, a southpaw himself, pitched to his team for the past two days in order to replicate what they’ll see today.

“They’re 19-5 for a reason,” he said. “Our hitters just have to work the guy and get him to throw a ton of pitches and get his pitch count up.”

Another key for the Spartans will be the mental game. Gore said he’s told his team over and over this week not to take their bad at-bats into the field, or take a bad play with them to the plate.

“We’ve got to have confidence out in the field,” he said. “We need to just play catch and make the routine plays, because (the) pressure can get (to) you. But, if we make a mistake, we just need to forget it and move on.”

Senior outfielder Blake Jensen isn’t worried about how the stress of the tournament will affect the Spartans, even with many kids at school telling him and the others they’ll be at the game.

“I think the most pressure we’ve felt so far was at the Ingraham game (during the Metro tournament) and I think we handled that pretty well,” he said. “We’ll just go out there and play relaxed.”

Senior outfielder David Lantz is happy he can end his career in the state tournament – and make sure the baseball program gains some prestige.

“It’s a lot more (people wishing us well) than it used to be in the past,” he said. “(But) it’s our time to shine now.”

– John Becerra, Jr.

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