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Posts Tagged ‘Island rivalry win’

Scout Smith reached base all four times she hit Tuesday as Coupeville walloped South Whidbey 13-3. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Veronica Crownover clears the bases with a grand slam.

The bat stays home.

After years of Coupeville and South Whidbey’s high school football teams playing for ownership of The Bucket, softball decided to get into the trophy biz this year.

CHS coach Kevin McGranahan, after consulting with SWHS head man Brad Jaeger, crafted a bat which has the Wolf logo and colors on one side, and the Falcon’s on the other.

Whichever team wins the most games in a given season will lay claim to the award for a year, and the first time out, with absolutely no doubt, it’s bound for Coupeville’s trophy case.

Sparked by a first-inning grand slam off the bat of senior slugger Veronica Crownover Tuesday, CHS roared to a 13-3 win over its rivals, and has taken the first two of three games the North Sound Conference rivals are slated to play this spring.

The two schools also meet May 7 in Langley in the regular-season finale.

With the win, their fourth in their last five games, the Wolves jump to 5-2 in league play, 8-6 overall.

That puts Coupeville just a game back of Granite Falls (6-1, 9-5) and a game-and-a-half up on Cedar Park Christian (3-3, 8-4) in the race for a league crown.

Sultan (1-4, 1-7) and South Whidbey (1-6, 4-9) bring up the rear.

Tuesday’s game was, for a moment or two, a lot closer than the first time the Island rivals put their dukes up.

Two weeks ago, the Wolves tattooed the Falcons 18-1, but this time out, South Whidbey pushed the game’s first run across thanks to two singles and a wild pitch in the top of the first.

The lead would not last long.

Scout Smith led off the Coupeville half of the first with a hard chopper through the gap between short and third — the first of four consecutive times she would reach base — then walks to Sarah Wright and Mollie Bailey set the stage.

South Whidbey freshman hurler Chanel Sterba was dealing heat from the pitcher’s circle, but Crownover, who claims she has watched very little Game of Thrones, was in full-on Brienne of Tarth mode.

In other words, hide the kids and those with heart problems, cause we’re headed to Carnage City.

Her bat crashing down on the ball like a sword slicin’ and dicin’ its way through gristle and bone, Crownover’s first monster blast went deep to left.

How deep? They might want to check if any of the windows at The Tyee got themselves broken this afternoon.

But it was ultimately a long (very long) foul ball, and, for half a second, the Falcons thought they might live to see another day.

They would not.

Crownover’s next swing was smooth, precise and violent enough to deposit the ball well over the fence in the deepest part of center field, plating four runs and effectively ending the game on the spot.

Not that the Falcons gave up, however.

South Whidbey catcher Ari Marshall stung Coupeville in the top of the second, lacing a two-run single to left field to pull her squad back to within 4-3, but that would be the last time the Falcons did any damage against Izzy Wells.

Coupeville’s fab frosh pitcher ended the threat with a strikeout, and went on to retire 10 of the final 11 hitters she faced in the five-inning game.

Other than a ball which popped out of a Wolf mitt in the fifth inning, the Falcons were completely iced by Wells after Marshall’s base-knock.

And, while Coupeville didn’t hit any more home runs after Crownover‘s rocket launch, they continued to hammer the snot out of the ball just the same.

Four more runs in the bottom of the second, all coming after they faced a two-outs-and-no-one-on-base situation, sealed the deal.

Smith kick-started the rally, reaching on an error, Emma Mathusek walked, and then the ball started rocketing every which way.

Coupeville piled up three straight RBI base-hits, with Chelsea Prescott lacing a single to right, Sarah Wright smashing a two-run double to center, and Mollie Bailey slicing a single to center.

Denying Crownover a chance to go deep a second time, South Whidbey intentionally walked the Wolf first-baseman as wails of “Nooooooo” erupted from the amped-up Wolf bench.

I like to imagine the conversation in the pitcher’s circle at that moment went something like this:

“You know, I could always hit her with a pitch. That way she can’t go yard again.”

“You do that, and she’s liable to walk out here, take that bat and bend it around your head.”

“OK, maybe I’ll just walk her…”

“Yeah, you think???”

It mattered not, as Coupeville’s offense was poppin’ and getting big hits from everyone.

Nicole Laxton legged out an infield single in the third, hitting the bag with an emphatic foot tap as first-base coach Ron Wright jumped close to 10 feet in the air during his celebration dance.

That, and a walk to Smith, set Mathusek up, and the sweet-swingin’ center-fielder responded, lobbing a two-run double to center as the Wolves run total hit double digits.

An RBI double from Wright, who tied Smith by reaching base during all four of her at-bats, stretched the lead to 11-3, and from there, the end was right around the bend.

South Whidbey threw one small wrinkle in, holding the Wolves scoreless in the fourth thanks to nice work from relief pitcher Melody Wilkie.

Her best play came on a towering pop-up by Wells.

As Marshall popped up from her catcher’s crouch and Sterba charged from first, Wilkie took off like a sprinter, glove out, and made a gorgeous snare on the rapidly-falling ball while splitting her teammates and almost crashing into her own dugout.

It was a standout play from a young woman with a lot of fans in Coupeville from back when she played with Central Whidbey Little League, but it would be the last highlight for the Falcons.

CHS stamped the gas pedal down in the bottom of the fifth, scoring two to take advantage of the mercy rule and bring the day’s activity to a close.

A walk and a Falcon error got things going, before Prescott and Bailey smashed RBI singles back up the middle to close the scoring.

Racking up 10 hits and seven walks, the Wolves kept their hot streak at the plate alive on a cold day, something which pleased their coach.

“We set the tone in the first inning when Veronica blasted a frozen rope … pun intended,” McGranahan said. “We won every inning today and also did it Saturday (against Meridian.)

“We are playing good ball right and are hitting the ball hard,” he added. “I am very happy with how we are hitting hard line drives and hitting as a team. We need to carry this momentum into the postseason.”

Crownover (HR), Wright (two doubles), Prescott (two singles), Bailey (two singles), Mathusek (2B), Laxton (1B), and Smith (1B) all collected hits, with Wright and Smith each walking twice.

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Maddie Georges (left) and Karyme Castro endure the rain while pursuing their softball dreams. (Suzan Georges photos)

Georges and Sofia Peters share a moment with a friendly rival.

Our game, our Island.

At every level this spring, Coupeville is ruling the softball field, and taking special delight in bushwhacking Oak Harbor, their big-city neighbors to the North.

Thursday night the latest beat-down came courtesy the Central Whidbey Little League Juniors squad, which rolled up the Island and torched North Whidbey 20-8.

The win lifts the Wolves to 4-0 on the season, not surprising for a team which has outscored its rivals 78-23.

Central Whidbey came out primed to rumble Thursday, dropping runs in every inning, with nine of 13 players scoring at least once.

The Wolves put up four in the top of the first, and kept the scoreboard humming all night, with six runs in the second, two in the third, then eight in the fourth to spring the 10-run mercy rule.

Everyone swung the bat well, with the 2-3-4-5 hitters particularly dangerous.

Savina Wells and Melanie Navarro paced the Wolves with three hits apiece, both blasting a double and two singles, while Jill Prince had a double and single, and Sofia Peters whacked a pair of singles.

The battlin’ Lucero sisters rounded out the hit attack, as Allie plunked a double and Maya drilled a single, with Cypress Socha, Prince, and Peters walking twice apiece.

Central Whidbey had 11 walks to go with its 12 hits, as Gwen Gustafson, Hayley Fiedler, Vivian Farris, Maddie Georges, and Allie Lucero also earned free passes.

Adrian Burrows and Karyme Castro also saw playing time for the Wolves, who kicked off a three-game road trip Thursday night.

The squad travels to Sedro-Woolley Apr. 20, then faces South Skagit Apr. 25, not returning to play at Rhododendron Park again until Apr. 27.

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Freshman Morgan Stevens reached base four times Thursday afternoon, as Coupeville High School JV softball rallied for a wild 19-18 win over Oak Harbor. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The Wolves celebrate their big win. (Photo courtesy Greg Thomas)

Chloe Wheeler is having herself a moment.

Less than 24 hours after crunching her first-ever varsity hit, a magnificent two-run double to deep left field at Granite Falls, the softball slugger launched an even-bigger hit on her home field.

This time it was an RBI single smashed back up the middle, a walk-off bomb in the bottom of the fifth inning Thursday that lifted Coupeville’s JV squad to a wild win.

Down 11-2, the 1A Wolves came all the way back to upend their big-school neighbors, 3A Oak Harbor.

The 19-18 win, settled moments before the rain and darkness arrived on the prairie, gave Coupeville a season split in JV games with their North End foes.

Tack on a Wolf varsity win at Oak Harbor earlier this season, and CHS won two of three against the Wildcats this spring.

With the win, the Wolf JV evens its record at 3-3, heading into a Saturday doubleheader at Port Angeles.

Thursday’s game was a prime testament to a team not giving in, ever, as Coupeville only led once, when Wheeler’s hot shot bit a chunk out of the outfield grass, sending Ivy Leedy streaking home with the game’s final run.

Oak Harbor opened on fire, tossing five runs on the board in the top of the first, and another six in the second.

In between, Coupeville scraped together a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, with freshman Audrianna Shaw beginning a torrid day at the plate with a two-run triple to the wall in left field.

That plated Wheeler, who beat the throw to first on a dropped third strike, and Abby Meyers, who swatted a single to center.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, the rally ended as quickly as it began, with Shaw stranded at third and unable to come home.

Heading into the bottom of the second, CHS found itself mired in an 11-2 hole and looking for a spark.

And the Wolves found it.

Kylie Van Velkinburgh dropped a seeing-eye single into short right-center, Mckenna Somes beat out the first of her THREE bunt singles, and Morgan Stevens walked to juice the bags with no one out.

After poking at the Wildcats, picking up a run on a Wheeler RBI single and another on a bases-loaded walk to Heidi Meyers, the Wolves fully flexed their muscles.

The show of force came courtesy back-to-back huge base-knocks, with Izzy Wells parking a two-run double to center, followed by Shaw almost killing the OHHS pitcher.

Ripping a liner right back up the middle, she banked the ball off the girl’s face-mask with a vicious clang, sending two more runners scampering home and sending a tremor rolling across the prairie.

Back within 11-8, the stage was set not for a blowout, but for a war, and the two teams obliged.

Back and forth it went.

Oak Harbor stretched the lead out to 13-8, Coupeville cut it to 13-12 (with Wheeler crunching an RBI triple), the Wildcats stamped on the gas again to make it 18-12, then the Wolves slashed it back down to 18-17 by the end of the fourth inning.

In between, there were big hits — Van Velkinburgh whipping a two-run single to dead center that left her bat like it had bought a ticket on a jet liner.

There were big hustle plays — Leedy crashing hard down the third-base line, before ducking under the tag to score on a bunt single by Somes.

And there were big defensive moments — Wolf shortstop Abby Meyers gunning down a runner heading into third, and Leedy snagging a foul ball while threatening to crash into the first-base dugout.

Which all led us to the only way a game like this could end, or should end, with a nail-biter finish which blossomed into a home-town celebration.

Oak Harbor opened the top of the fifth inning, which was to be the final frame with the approach of darkness, by eking out a walk.

It would be the last happy moment for the Wildcats, unless they got to hit McDonald’s on the way home.

Van Velkinburgh, working strongly in the pitcher’s circle, induced an infield pop-up, at which point things got odd.

Coming from short and second, sisters Abby and Heidi Meyers almost ran into each other, the ball dropped in, the sisters started to argue, and the runner coming from first froze two steps into her journey, perhaps not wanting to get into the middle of a family spat.

Though maybe it was just a ruse, meant to throw off the runner, as Abby bellowed “Heidi, ball!!!!!” and her older sibling immediately snatched it up and calmly flipped it to her lil’ sis for the force-out.

At which point the Meyers sisters looked at each other, grinned, and slapped mitts, while the forlorn ‘Cat runner slowly, very slowly, walked off the field.

That left a runner at first (the batter who hit the pop-up), but it was nothing, as Coupeville promptly closed the inning with a double-play.

Van Velkinburgh got another pop up, this time right to third-base, where Shaw snatched it out of the air for out #2, before spinning and firing to Leedy at first to double up the straying runner for out #3.

Having held Oak Harbor scoreless for the only time in the game, Coupeville sprinted back to its dugout still down by a run, but with 99.89% of the fans convinced this was about to be a winner, winner, chicken dinner.

It wasn’t a question of if it would happen, but how, and the Wolves made quick work of the scenario.

Singles from Shaw and Van Velkinburgh, wrapped around a walk to Leedy, jammed the bases full with no outs, then the Wolves pulled off a rare play to knot the score.

Somes struck out, but when the ball skittered away from the catcher, she tore down to first base.

Since the base was occupied, she really had nowhere to go, but Oak Harbor seemed to forget that, and when they threw to first to try and get her, Shaw bolted for home, sliding in with the tying run.

Flustered and frustrated, the Wildcats were on the edge, just waiting to be pushed off.

Stevens gave them a little poke, dropping an infield single on a ball which spun about 485 times before coming to a stop right in front of the pitcher, which set up Wheeler for hero time.

Much like her varsity at-bat the night before, #2 was locked and loaded, her bat slicing downward and shooting the ball out where no one was going to catch it.

The wild finale capped a game in which CHS collected an astonishing 19 hits, at least according to my (generous) scoring.

Shaw and Van Velkinburgh each delivered four base-knocks, while Wheeler and Somes had three apiece.

Stevens reached base four times, collecting two singles and two walks, with Wells, Leedy, and Abby Meyers rounding out the hit parade.

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Central Whidbey pitcher Chloe Marzocca was a two-way terror Tuesday, as her Majors softball team bounced its arch-rival. (Photo courtesy Fred Farris)

Katie Marti (left) and Jada Heaton both had big games, as well, as the Hammerheads remained undefeated. (Photo courtesy Jennifer McDavid-Heaton)

Blowout or nail-biter, it matters not.

The Central Whidbey Little League Majors softball squad is undefeated for one big reason – they can, and will, always find a way to win.

Tuesday night, that meant jumping out to a commanding lead against their arch-rivals, the North Whidbey Little League Bandits, then holding on when their foes came charging back.

When the scoreboard at Volunteer Park was shut off after five furious innings, Central Whidbey sprinted away with a 12-8 win, improving to a flawless 3-0 on the season.

Facing a team which boasts “some big hitters and really good pitching,” the Hammerheads opened the game exactly the way coach Fred Farris wanted them to – aggressively.

“We knew we had our hands full against a good team and rival,” he said.

To prepare his sluggers, Farris brought in CWLL Juniors pitchers Savina Wells and Gwen Gustafson to throw batting practice, guaranteeing the Hammerhead bats would be ready for the increased heat.

And, with a little prep, Central Whidbey was ready.

The Hammerheads broke the game open with five runs in the top of the first, keyed by a heads-up play from Katie Marti.

She’s the latest addition to one of Coupeville’s premier athletic dynasties, a fresh offshoot of a family tree which includes legends like grandpa Paul Messner, a golden god on the gridiron, and cousin Breeanna Messner, a four-sport standout back in the day.

But now it’s Katie Time, and she alertly scrambled to first after a dropped third strike got away from the North Whidbey catcher.

With new life, the Hammerheads immediately capitalized, thanks to Jada Heaton blasting a two-run single.

Chloe Marzocca was dealing heat from the pitcher’s circle for Central, holding her foes scoreless through the first three innings, while helping herself out on offense with a two-run single of her own.

Rolling along with a 10-0 lead, the Hammerheads looked untouchable, but North Whidbey is too good of a team to just roll over and quietly wilt.

The Bandits put together a six-run rally in the fourth to prevent the 10-run mercy rule from being implemented, but they would get no closer.

Taylor Brotemarkle came storming out of the bullpen to slam the door shut, recording the final five outs to seal the win for Marzocca and send Central fans home happy.

The Hammerheads spread their offense around, with Marzocca leading the hit parade with two base-knocks and three RBI.

Brotemarkle, Heaton, Teagan Calkins, and Madison McMillan added a hit apiece, while Brotemarkle came around to score a team-best three times.

Central Whidbey got two runs apiece from Brianna Blouin, Mia Farris, and Allison Nastali, with Marti, McMillan, and Marzocca also tapping home.

As good as they were on offense, the Hammerheads also sizzled on defense.

The team’s catcher and third-baseman combo of Calkins and Blouin teamed up to nail three runners caught between third and home.

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Ulrik Wells flies home with the winning run Friday, as 0-12 Coupeville stuns 13-1 South Whidbey. (Karen Carlson photo)

The scruff is on its way out.

As his team fought through a 12-game losing streak to open the season, Coupeville High School assistant baseball coach Mike Etzell pledged to keep growing his beard until his boys won.

Friday afternoon, the Wolves pulled off one of the great upsets in prairie history, and Mike’s wife, Kristi, is on her way with the clippers.

Now, Coupeville and South Whidbey, schools separated by a fairly short drive and united by many players and coaches having competed together, have played numerous times over the decades.

Friday produced one of the more stunning results in the long rivalry, however, as Coupeville, which came in at 0-12, stormed from behind to topple a 13-1 Falcons squad, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim a 4-3 victory.

The turn of events has major repercussions across the North Sound Conference.

For one, it gives the Wolves a huge shot of confidence as they head into three-game series with Sultan and Granite Falls, the teams they’re fighting with for the final NSC playoff slot.

Plus, the unexpected ding drops South Whidbey to 10-2 in league play, knocking it two games back of league-leader Cedar Park Christian, which is 12-0 after nipping King’s 1-0 Friday night.

The two schools close the regular season with a three-game clash Apr. 22-26, and now South Whidbey will have to sweep the series if it wants to win a league title.

While a rebuilding Coupeville hardball squad hasn’t been able to match last year’s team, which went 15-6 and missed the state tourney by just a game, this group of Wolves has fought hard day in and day out.

They’ve been close to a win before, falling a run shy against King’s and Lynden Christian, but Friday they reached nirvana thanks to their most complete performance of the season.

Senior pitcher Matt Hilborn was humming on the mound, the defense was air-tight, and, for the first time all year, the Wolves got big hits in crucial moments.

The four runs is a season-high, and they came at the beginning and at the end.

Down 1-0 headed to the bottom of the first, Coupeville got lucky, then made dang sure that luck held up.

Freshman Hawthorne Wolfe rifled a one-out shot into deep left, bouncing the ball off a Falcon glove, before motoring into second thanks to the error.

If he got a little help, the next hitter, senior Jake Pease, needed none.

Picking his pitch, he crushed the ball into the gap between right field and center, the ball crashing hard to the Earth for an RBI double and causing CHS coach Chris Smith to jump a solid five feet in the air, fists pumping.

The Wolves didn’t stop there, either, as Pease moved to third on a passed ball, then bolted for home when another throw evaded the Falcon catcher.

The throw was close, but Pease was quick, on target, and agile enough to get under the tag by a sizable margin, putting his squad ahead.

CHS almost pulled off the same play a pitch or two later, but this time the Falcons recovered fast enough to nail Dane Lucero at the plate as he tried to scamper home on yet another passed ball.

From there the game became a war of attrition, with neither squad able to pull away.

South Whidbey pushed a run across in the second to knot things up, then snatched the lead in the fourth on an RBI double of its own.

But the damage could have been worse.

Wolfe came up huge, ending the inning, and snuffing the rally, by kicking off a fiery double-play.

Sprinting across center field, the fab frosh yanked down a long fly ball for out #2, then spun and nailed a Falcon straying off the bag at second base for out #3.

The play drew a huge roar from the biggest crowd Coupeville baseball has drawn all season, but it was just one of many quality defensive gems for the Wolves.

CHS catcher Gavin Knoblich threw out two would-be base-stealers, delivering lightning bolts which zipped across the field, landing square in the waiting mitt of second-baseman Daniel Olson.

The throws were flawless, even though one almost took out Hilborn, who dropped down on the mound a little later than normal, and the tags were applied with precision.

“Oh, I liked those,” Chris Smith said afterwards. “I liked those a lot.”

When his defense wasn’t stepping up, Hilborn was rearing back and firing BB’s, whiffing six and keeping the Falcons at bay.

And yet, as well as the Wolves were playing, they were still losing.

It would have been an honorable loss, full of small “moral victories,” yes, but another loss in a season chock full of them.

Except Mike Etzell’s beard was itching to get clipped, and the longtime diamond guru, clapping like a madman down in the first-base coach’s box, willed a miracle.

The bottom of the seventh, playing out under cloudy skies, will go down as one of the great moments in prairie diamond history.

It started with Olson lashing a lead-off single right back up the middle, the ball kicking wickedly, dirt flying everywhere.

And it only got better from there.

Knoblich made it two straight hits, launching a ball down the right field line.

The orb hung in the air for an eternity, debating whether it wanted to go foul or stay fair, then made the correct call, splashing down inside the line before kicking away from the madly charging outfielder.

With runners at the corners, Ulrik Wells, the longest and lankiest of all the Wolves, went low, dropping a bunt towards the third-base side.

With the Falcons intent on keeping Olson glued to third, that gave Wells, long legs churning, time to barrel across the bag at first with an infield single, and suddenly, the Falcons were in a very, very bad place.

Bases juiced, no one out, Wolf fans going berserk and Lady Luck about to play a key role.

Freshman Cody Roberts slapped a chopper back up the middle, and, for a moment, it seemed like the Falcons had won the mini-battle, if not yet the war.

Spoiler: they had not.

Rushing his throw while on the move, the Falcon fielder chucked the ball about 20 feet over his catcher’s head as Olson blew across the plate accompanied by his dad, Paul, bellowing like he had just won the lottery AND discovered he wouldn’t have to pay any taxes.

Give South Whidbey credit.

To a man the Falcons didn’t hang their heads, and immediately got that first out on the next batter, off a hard-hit come-backer to the mound which exploded off of Mason Grove’s bat.

But this dam was ready to bust, and Matt Hilborn was born to set off the TNT.

From the moment he stepped on the CHS diamond four years ago, he has been at the forefront of Wolf baseball.

No matter where his coaches have played him, and he has ended up at almost every position at some point, he has excelled, and he has done it with grace and quiet confidence.

Through good games and bad, through fun seasons and rough ones, Hilborn has upheld the tradition of guys like Hunter Smith, Jake Tumblin, and Brad Haslam.

Come hard every day, every play. Never back down. Ever.

He has received All-League honors. Team awards. Praise from his coaches. All justified.

But Hilborn has always seemed to me to be a self-contained player.

He never seems to be playing for personal glory, or for momentary cheers.

Instead, without fanfare or chest-beating, he’s played the long game, carving out his place in prairie diamond history.

A lot of this is a guess. I don’t know Matt away from the athletic field, have never spoken to him.

But I have watched his career unfold, across multiple sports, in games played in Coupeville and in far-flung rival outposts, and I believe Hilborn deserved the moment he got at a little before 6 PM Friday.

It was one swing, which produced a long, arcing cannon shot to deep center, a note-perfect sac fly which plated Wells, won a game and sent his teammates, his fans, and his support crew into pandemonium.

In a season of struggle, it was a nice grace note.

A win earned by a team which has never given up, capped by a moment for the scrap book from a young man who has fully earned the spotlight, even if he has never demanded it.

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