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Veronica Crownover had a run on the softball diamond few other Wolves can match. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

The welcome committee awaits the conquering hero after a mammoth home-run.

Along with being a terror on offense, she was a nimble, sure-handed defender at first-base.

She was feared, respected, and loved, which makes for a pretty potent mix.

Once she got out of middle school, leaving volleyball and basketball behind her, Veronica Crownover tackled softball with a laser focus, becoming one of the best to ever wear a Coupeville High School uniform.

During her four-year run on the prairie, which came to a close this spring, the first-baseman was an integral part in back-to-back league titles (the second and third in 41 years of Wolf softball) and the program’s first win at the state tourney since 2002.

Along the way, she became the first Coupeville softball player I’ve ever seen receive multiple intentional walks in one game.

South Whidbey coach Brad Jaeger looked across the field at Crownover bending her bat in half while waiting in the on-deck circle and said, “No, ma’am, no sir, no how, no way.”

And he was probably right, as Crownover had torched Falcon ace Chanel Sterba in a previous game, bashing a grand-slam which bounced up the street towards Prairie Center.

As impressive as that cannon shot was, it wasn’t even her biggest blow of the year.

Of the five over-the-fence home runs she unloaded as a senior, Crownover’s Pièce De Résistance came in the year’s most-satisfying win.

Given a chance to face next-door neighbor Oak Harbor for the first time in maybe forever, the lil’ 1A Wolves stunned the 3A Wildcats 8-4 on their own field.

The hottest hitter in that game was Crownover, who launched an epic RBI single, smashed a moon shot for a two-run double, was intentionally walked, and, oh yes, cleared the towering left field fence for a game-deciding three-run home run.

To appreciate the full fury of her day, and the joy it brought Wolf nation, pop over to https://coupevillesports.com/2019/03/16/big-hearts-big-win/ to once again marinate in the moment.

But, as awe-inspiring as her performance was that day, it was just one small slice from a career which can stand with any put together by a CHS softball player.

Crownover, hot off a little league run which also included a trip to state (and a brief trial-run as a pitcher), had an immediate impact as a Wolf freshman.

She was selected as a First-Team All-Conference player by Olympic League coaches after bashing the snot out of the ball.

In particular, she was the first Wolf to turn the tide against Klahowya’s Amber Bumbalough.

In the early-going of the league, the Eagle hurler dominated, but then Coupeville turned the tide on the eventual D-I pitcher, beating KSS six straight times.

Jae LeVine and Tiffany Briscoe came through with unexpected, big-time blows against Klahowya during that stretch, while Katrina McGranahan and Sarah Wright upheld their reputations as all-world offensive threats.

But it was Crownover — swinging a bat she should have called “Thunder,” because it made a ferocious rumble every time she connected with the ball — who proved the Wolves could terrorize high-level pitching.

And they did it against other teams, as well.

South Whidbey’s Mackenzee Collins is also now a D-I pitcher, but Crownover tore her pitches to pieces, and the Wolves never lost to the Falcons in the four years Veronica wore the uniform.

By the time she was finished, Coupeville’s titan of swat had been tabbed to three All-Conference teams (and robbed one other time) and piled up stats which compare to any Wolf.

Everyone’s enduring image of Crownover will be of her crushing home-runs, yanking doubles off the top of the wall, or slicing wicked liners that whizzed an inch past a startled pitcher’s face on their way to RBI nirvana.

But she was also a top-level defender, the glue which often held the Wolf infield together.

Crownover had a slick glove, was often surprisingly nimble around the bag, and was a cerebral player, making the smart play time and again.

Her combination of providing a superior target, always being ready, and being capable of pulling off quick tags allowed Wolf catcher Sarah Wright to frequently whizz pick-off throws at unexpected moments, and the duo erased a pleasing amount of runners.

Through it all, from the little league days to her final moments on the field at the state tourney in Richland, where she and her teammates upended highly-ranked Deer Park, Crownover was the same easy-going, fun-loving, deadly-efficient slugger.

Today we induct her into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, where she joins others diamond greats such as Sarah Mouw and Breeanna Messner, and it’s an honor she more than deserves.

After this, you’ll find Crownover at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab.

She’ll be easy to spot.

Just look for the player who has to pull a cart behind her, because she collected too many home-run balls to just carry them in her arms.

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Coupeville frosh Izzy Wells brings the heat Thursday at the district softball tourney in Sedro-Woolley. (Karen Carlson photos)

Scout Smith comes chugging home with one of three fences-clearing home-runs the Wolves smashed as they swept two games and clinched a trip to state.

Third time’s the charm.

After falling a single win shy of advancing to the state tournament two years running, the Coupeville High School softball team flipped the script this time around.

Mashing the ball with a cold, relentless fury Thursday, launching three home runs amid a hail of extra-base hits, the Wolf sluggers swept two games at the district tourney in Sedro-Woolley, clinching their ticket to the big dance.

It’s the third trip to state for Coupeville softball, as the 2019 Wolves join the 2002 and 2014 teams in earning a bid.

After bouncing Meridian 15-0, then holding off a late rally by conference arch-rival Granite Falls in an 11-10 thriller, Coupeville first advances to Saturday’s district championship game.

The Wolves, now 14-7 and carrying a six-game winning streak, play Lynden Christian (11-11) at 2 PM back at Janicki Fields.

That’s a rematch of an early-season non-conference game in which the Lyncs slipped away with a 9-6 win on their home field.

Lynden Christian, the #3 seed from the Northwest Conference, was a bit of a surprise Thursday, drilling Cedar Park Christian 15-3 before toppling NWC #1 Mount Baker 19-17 in the semifinals.

Win or lose Saturday, both Coupeville and Lynden Christian are state-bound May 24-25, heading to Richland to be part of the 16-team 1A field.

The draw for the state tourney is announced this Sunday.

Districts started with nine teams vying for three spots to state, and South Whidbey and Meridian went 0-2 Thursday and crashed out, joining Sultan, which lost a play-in game.

The four teams which finished 1-1 will vie Saturday for the third, and final, state berth from District 1.

Granite Falls faces Cedar Park, and Mount Baker plays Nooksack Valley in loser-out games at noon.

The survivors clash at 2 PM for third-place, while Coupeville and Lynden Christian play for the big trophy on field one, the diamond which the Wolves ruled Thursday afternoon and evening.

How things played out:

 

Game 1:

The first time Coupeville played Meridian, it was a balmy Saturday afternoon on Whidbey Island, and the Wolves romped to an 11-1 mid-season non-league win.

Come playoff time, CHS kicked it into another gear, scoring 11 runs in one inning — with 10 of those coming with two outs — as all nine starters reached base in a game called in the fourth thanks to the mercy rule.

For a game which finished 15-0, it was surprisingly close for a solid 15 minutes.

Neither team scored until the bottom of the second, and Coupeville actually went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.

To give credit where it’s due, Wolf hitters Scout Smith, Emma Mathusek, and Chelsea Prescott all ripped wicked line drives first time around, only to have Meridian show off some quality glove work.

The first hot shot was snagged in mid-flight by the Trojan shortstop, the next two by a very-startled first baseman.

But with Smith flinging liquid heat from the pitcher’s circle, Meridian could do diddly squat on offense, and Coupeville wouldn’t be held down for long.

The Wolves picked up one run after Sarah Wright bashed a ball off the shortstop’s glove, before moving to third on a ground-out, then strolling home when Veronica Crownover tattooed the ball off the top of the left field wall for an RBI double.

Field #1 had higher fences than the other three diamonds at the play-fields, and the two-bagger would have been a home run on every other field.

Crownover, camped at second, briefly eyeballed the fence, then stashed that info away for later use.

Spoiler alert: the Wolf first-baseman, who leads her squad in taters, hits two home runs later in this story, proving her ability to adjust in-game.

And back to our story as it develops, with walks to Mackenzie Davis and Nicole Laxton setting the table for Smith, who promptly cranked a two-run double to left to give herself, and her pitching arm, a little cushion.

While Smith’s bat made the Meridian coach weep internally, the end of the play, when Laxton pulled off a Pete Rose-worthy head-first slide into third to beat the incoming throw, might have been the prettiest play of the whole dang afternoon.

Back in the pitcher’s circle, Smith gunned down the Trojans 1-2-3 for the second straight inning, part of a run where she retired eight of nine hitters, then erased her one minor mistake (a walk) by inducing a double-play.

Coupeville could have slid by with a run here, a run there, which is what it looked like might happen after Mollie Bailey plated Wright with a sac fly in the bottom of the third.

Up 4-0, with two outs and not a soul aboard, the Wolves were in a decent place.

Then they moved to a really great place.

After Bailey — whose older sister McKayla was the pitching ace for the last Wolf softball team to go to state — bopped back to the bench, a drummer always moving to her own beat, CHS ignited a rally for the ages.

The next 10 Wolf batters reached base safely, starting with a Crownover single, then ending when she came back around to paste the snot out of the ball for a two-run home-run to right-center.

Her fourth ball to clear the fence and fly away to open spaces this season (spoiler: #5 is coming before this story is done), Crownover’s blast followed on the heels of RBI singles from Coral Caveness and Bailey, several Meridian errors, and Prescott gettin’ medieval.

The sophomore shortstop cranked a three-run double that would have been a triple, if she hadn’t hit a hidden hole in the infield as she barreled towards second base.

Prescott, running with a full head of steam, suddenly went down like a sniper in the stands shot out her leg, sending a momentary tremor through Wolf Nation.

But, after five seconds, which felt like an hour, she popped up, bounced around, then perched atop the bag, smiling, and all the pent-up air rushed back out of Coupeville fans in a happy sigh.

Up 14-0 by the time the third inning finally ended, the Wolves needed just a single run in the bottom of the fourth to take advantage of a postseason mercy rule which ends games when one team goes up by 15 any time after the third inning.

Fittingly, it was Smith, who parked a liner to left, sending Laxton home with the final run and earning herself the (sort of) complete-game shutout.

Coupeville rapped out nine hits in the opener, and would get another 12 base-knocks in the night-cap.

Crownover, with two home runs among her four hits, led the way, while Smith, Prescott, Wright, and Caveness piled up three base-knocks apiece across the two games.

Mathusek (2), Bailey (2), and Laxton (1) rounded out the hit parade.

 

Game 2:

While Coupeville had plenty of time to sit around, have a bite to eat, and relax, Granite played all seven innings in its opener, stranding the tying and winning runs on base in a 7-6 thriller against Nooksack Valley.

The Tigers, who beat the Wolves twice this season, only to see CHS bounce back for a win in their third meeting, which was crucial to Coupeville clinching the #1 seed from the North Sound Conference, looked tired when they trekked over to Field #1.

This time it was Wells, the fab frosh, in the pitcher’s circle and she came out poppin’ in a 1-2-3 top of the first.

Granite, with its main hurler having thrown a ton of pitches in the opening game, answered with a backup chucker, causing the Wolves to lick their chops.

Dropping hay-makers from the get-go, Coupeville got a lead-off homer to left from Smith, her second big blast of the season, then an RBI single from Bailey.

Enter Crownover, twirling her bat and giving the stink eye to the Tiger hurler, and exit the ball, with a three-run blast grabbing a one-way ticket over the fence in left-center, staking CHS to a 5-0 lead.

Turns out the Wolves would need every one of those runs, as Granite picked away for two runs in the second, then one more in both the third and fourth.

While the lead shrank to 5-4, things didn’t get truly tragic.

Smart defensive plays, whether it was Mathusek with a diving catch in center, Bailey nonchalantly yanking a red-hot liner out of the air a millisecond before it screamed past her head, or a Laxton-to-Prescott-to-Wright relay to nail a runner at the plate, were huge.

Granite, known for its ability to generate huge offensive outbursts, kept on being muted by Wells and her teammates, and Coupeville never lost the lead.

Ever.

Looking for some breathing room, the Wolves erupted for another five runs in the bottom of the fourth, stretching the margin back out to a more comfortable 10-4.

It started with Caveness, who has been on a hitting tear during the second-half of the season, poking a single into a microscopic gap in left, then really got rolling with base-knocks from Mathusek, Prescott, and Wright.

Prescott’s single was a supremely weird chopper which spun the wrong way, evading the Granite pitcher like they were playing tag at recess.

Wright’s was a wicked pool shot hammered by a back alley hustler taking all your money while making you think you somehow still had a chance to get the cash back.

You don’t, so don’t ask.

From there, the two teams each nabbed a single run, with Prescott delivering an RBI triple while, this time, avoiding the hidden hole at second.

Coupeville couldn’t quite pull away to ten-run Granite, but the Tigers couldn’t get to Wells, or Smith, who came on in relief in the fifth, and it was 11-5 with the Wolves three outs from nirvana.

And then things got sticky.

Maybe nerves finally got to the Wolves a bit, maybe it was the lil’ rain drops which sputtered off and on over the day, maybe it was just a way to make sure the audience didn’t desert Field #1 for any of the other games.

Two crucial Granite hits, and a couple of Coupeville brain fart errors, gave the Tigers a last bit of hope.

In the flicker of an eye, it went from 11-5 to 11-10, and the Wolves were scraping, desperately, to get those final, precious outs.

Caveness, who was superb in the field all day, picked up an out with a sweet snag and flip to Prescott, while Smith erased another hitter on a come-backer.

But Granite had its second-best hitter at the plate, representing the tying run, and its best hitter on-deck, and, for a flicker of a moment, it might have been easy for bad memories to return.

Three years ago, when current seniors Crownover, Laxton, and Wright were freshmen, the Wolves went one and out at districts.

Two years ago, after four playoff games in 22 hours, an exhausted Coupeville team stood a single strike away from eliminating Bellevue Christian and advancing to state … but couldn’t get there.

Last year, the Wolves needed to beat Klahowya, a team they had won six straight against, to punch their ticket.

But it didn’t happen.

Thursday night, at a few minutes past 8 PM Pacific Standard Time, all those memories went away, however.

Smith fired a final pitch and got the ground-out she needed, wanted, and deserved.

Prescott went low, snapped up the ball effortlessly, popped up, took a moment to plant herself, then the orb was headed towards Crownover’s glove, flicked with precision and great velocity.

Time froze, a last raindrop splashed down on the bill of a fan’s ball cap, then Crownover squeezed the ball gently and the universe righted itself.

Sometimes you get the reward for all the hard work, the bruises and scrapes, the late nights on ferries and buses, for never giving up, no matter how many twists and turns come your way in your athletic life.

For Coupeville softball, its steady seniors, its ball-joltin’ juniors, its superb sophomores, its bright-eyed freshmen, and its coaching staff full of diamond lifers, Thursday was one of the biggies.

There’s still much ahead — the district title game, a run at state, and then, down the road, the awards banquet.

But Thursday?

That’s the one they talk about at their 10-year reunion, the one they tell their own daughters about when they hand them a glove for the first time in the backyards of the future.

Thursday will live forever.

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   Landon Roberts whacked three hits Saturday, including a home run, in a 19-1 CWLL win. (John Fisken photo)

They can’t be contained.

The only thing which stopped the Central Whidbey Little League Minors baseball squad from ringing up 100 runs Saturday in the opening game of the Henry Pope Memorial Tournament was a five-runs-per-inning rule.

Facing off with the defending tourney champs, CWLL rained down 16 hits, including three home-runs, en route to a 19-1 four-inning romp over the North Whidbey Mariners.

Central Whidbey, which sits at 13-0 on the season, returns to play Sunday at noon, facing host South Whidbey.

The double-elimination event, named in honor of the legendary former Falcon coach, runs June 3-12.

The hits started falling right away for CWLL, with four of its first five hitters lashing base-knocks, capped by a thunderous double off the bat of Jack Porter.

The big blows were still to come, though, as Landon Roberts launched a home-run in the second inning, followed by back-to-back moon shots from Levi Pulliam and Chase Anderson in the fourth.

Central Whidbey only went down on outs once, in the second inning, when it settled for four runs.

The other three innings, the sluggers exited once they hit the five-run cap, amassing just four (of a possible nine) outs across that time.

With the game well in hand, CWLL coach Jon Roberts divvied up time on the hill, using five pitchers to nab the win.

Anderson started, then was followed on the mound by Pulliam, Roberts, Porter (making his pitching debut) and Jordan Bradford.

Eight different Central Whidbey batters lashed hits, with Roberts and Pulliam recording three apiece.

Peyton Caveness, Mike Robinett, Porter and Bradford each had two.

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   Lead-off hitter Lauren Rose leads CHS in walks and is #2 in at-bats, runs and stolen bases. (John Fisken photo)

   Jump back to 2012 and several of today’s Wolf softball stars like Katrina McGranahan (red shirt) were getting their start with the Dirt Devils. (Darren Crownover photo)

Forget about league MVP. Katrina McGranahan should be in the argument for All-State consideration.

The Coupeville High School junior pitcher, who has led the Wolves to a 17-3 record heading into the playoffs, is red-hot this season.

Among athletes whose coaches submit stats to MaxPreps, McGranahan sits in the top 10 among all 1A players in seven different categories.

In four of those she’s in the top 10 for the entire state, regardless of classification.

McGranahan’s resume:

Strikeouts (#1 in 1A, #9 in state)
Wins (#1 in 1A, #2 in state)
ERA (#6 in 1A)
Home runs (#4 in 1A)
RBI (#2 in 1A, #8 in state)
Runs (#3 in 1A)
Stolen bases (#2 in 1A, #3 in state)

And she’s not the only member of the high-flying Wolves to be posting big stats.

Junior shortstop Mikayla Elfrank is #7 in 1A in both home runs and stolen bases, while junior third-baseman Lauren Rose is #5 in runs and #7 in stolen bases.

Sophomore catcher Sarah Wright rounds out the top 10 appearances, currently sitting #5 in 1A in RBIs.

Coupeville opens the district playoffs May 19 against Vashon Island. While you’re waiting, a look at season-to-date offensive stats:

Player AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR SB BB RBI Avg. OBP
Cedillo 21 5 5 1 6 3 .238 .448
Lodell 57 13 17 1 9 7 10 .298 .385
LeVine 63 21 20 2 5 10 11 .317 .419
K. Briscoe 5 6 2 1 1 4 6 4 .400 .727
Mathusek 6 2 1 3 1 .167 .444
Nastali 29 6 8 1 5 2 .276 .417
Smith 16 10 4 1 8 1 .250 .368
Rose 65 31 23 2 1 13 17 11 .354 .482
T. Briscoe 39 9 7 2 1 2 8 8 .179 .373
Davis 3 2 2 4 .571
McGranahan 63 34 32 3 5 4 21 9 37 .508 .575
Welling 5 2 1 2 2 .200 .500
Elfrank 60 21 23 6 4 3 13 11 18 .383 .486
Crownover 58 13 25 5 1 2 6 13 .431 .492
Wright 71 17 30 6 2 1 5 6 27 .423 .468
Lester 8 1 3 1 1 2 2 .375 .545

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   The secret to Coupeville’s softball success this spring? Manager Kayla Rose, the best in the biz. (John Fisken photo)

Stats don’t lie.

The Coupeville High School softball squad is 13-1 headed into a major showdown at Chimacum Friday, so it’s no surprise the Wolves have been piling up big numbers.

When you look at all 1A teams which have reported stats to MaxPreps this season, CHS can stand with any of them.

Junior gunslinger Katrina McGranahan is ranked #1 in 1A in five different categories (RBI, runs, stolen bases, wins and strikeouts), while breaking the Top 10 in another five stats.

She’s #3 in home runs, #4 in ERA, #6 in batting average and slugging percentage and #8 in on-base percentage.

Three other Wolves — Sarah Wright, Mikayla Elfrank and Lauren Rose — are also in the Top 10 in at least one category.

Rose is #2 in runs and #3 in steals, while Elfrank is #2 in steals and #10 in runs.

Wright is #3 in RBI.

They always say, defense wins championships but offense sells tickets, so here’s a look at the hitting stats for the rampaging CHS squad.

Player AB Runs Hits 2B 3B HR SB BB RBI Avg. OBP
Cedillo 19 5 4 1 5 2 .211 .423
Lodell 38 11 13 1 3 5 9 .342 .432
LeVine 49 14 16 2 5 5 10 .327 .389
K. Briscoe 3 4 2 1 1 3 4 4 .667 .857
Mathusek 3 2 1 3 1 .333 .667
Nastali 20 4 5 1 4 2 .250 .423
Smith 5 6 1 1 5 1 .200 .429
Rose 43 24 14 2 1 8 14 6 .326 .491
T. Briscoe 31 7 7 2 1 2 6 7 .226 .400
Davis 2 1 1 4 .667
McGranahan 43 27 24 3 3 4 13 8 27 .558 .627
Welling 4 1 1 2 2 .250 .500
Elfrank 42 17 16 3 3 1 11 10 8 .381 .509
Crownover 40 11 18 5 1 2 5 12 .450 .522
Wright 50 14 23 6 2 1 2 5 24 .460 .509
Lester 4 1 1 1 2 1 .250 .571

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