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Posts Tagged ‘miracle rallies’

Coupeville freshman Izzy Wells was a beast in her high school softball debut Tuesday, sparking an incredible come-back win. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

No one saw this coming. No one.

And if you say you did, you’re a cock-a-doodie liar.

I mean, let’s be honest here, there was a time Tuesday afternoon when I already had this Coupeville High School softball story mostly written in my head, and it was going to be a lot different than what you’re about to read.

It was going to be about a rebuilding team coming out on Opening Day, facing a rival with a big win already to its credit, and having the kind of struggles you often have in that kind of situation.

We would have reached down, plucked out the tale of Ms. Unflappable, freshman hurler Izzy Wells, and focused on that primarily, as a way to ease the rawness of a lopsided loss.

Maybe we would have talked about some truly, jaw-droppingly awful calls by the umpiring crew, but, ultimately, we would have looked for some kind of silver lining.

And then the world turned upside down.

Three outs away from being ten-runned, three outs away from absorbing a dispiriting loss, the Wolves, to a player, stood up and pulled off a stunning reversal of fortune like maybe none I’ve ever seen in 29 years of on-and-off sports writing.

You can look at the box score, see Coupeville beat Friday Harbor 18-17 — yes, that was really the score — and have no freakin’ clue of how wild, weird, wacky and, ultimately, wonderful, this one was.

So, let me try and give you some kind of clue, even as my own brain keeps doing dizzy laps around the inside of my noggin, screaming like a 10-year-old jacked out of his mind on Mountain Dew and Pop Rocks.

I mean, we’re talking about a game in which Coupeville trailed 9-0, 12-2, and, finally, 16-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning.

A game in which the Wolves didn’t get a hit until the fourth inning.

A game in which CHS led once, and only once, on the final swing of the game, as senior catcher Sarah Wright delivered the latest in a four-year run of crafting epic prairie moments.

A game in which the biggest performance, without question, came from a freshman making her high school softball debut, but also a game in which all 12 Wolf hitters got on base, often at crucial times.

Racing the setting sun, Coupeville’s diamond women did the impossible, brought a standing-room-only crowd to delirium, and sent a shell-shocked Friday Harbor squad off on a very long, and probably very tear-stained, bus and ferry trip home.

The visiting Wolverines had opened their season by clubbing always-scary Lynden Christian, and they came out bats smoking against CHS hurlers Scout Smith and Chelsea Prescott.

Coupeville is in transition, with Katrina McGranahan, its pitching ace the past four years, now sitting in the front row of the bleachers, offering quiet, sage advice to the group following in her large footsteps.

Smith and Prescott didn’t pitch all that badly over the first two innings-plus, with Smith whiffing three and Prescott setting Friday Harbor hitters back on their heels.

But, the Wolverines benefited from some dubious calls, which prompted one fan to inquire if the ump had gotten two glass eyes installed at their last visit to the eye doctor.

One play in particular, on which Wright came up firing and nailed a runner leaning off first, was textbook fraud.

The throw to teammate Veronica Crownover was so on the money, the tag so flawlessly applied, every person this side of Texas could see the runner was out.

Including the runner herself, and the Friday Harbor coach at first-base.

But, in the first of 27 times Coupeville coach Kevin McGranahan was gutted in one afternoon, both umps publicly admitted they couldn’t see the play, while calling the runner safe.

Howlers like that set the table, but give the visitors credit for using their lumber to deliver bone-crunching hits, as Friday Harbor surged out to a 12-2 lead midway through the third inning.

A two-run home-run to deep left field was seemingly the bow on the present the Wolverines were crafting for their coaching staff, but then Wells came stomping into the game to play a very-popular Grinch.

A star in little league, who has gone on to have successful high school volleyball and basketball seasons, the middle child belonging to Lyle and Katy Wells looked a hair nervous as she took the ball from Kevin McGranahan.

With a runner at second, nobody out, and a 10-run deficit, few were expecting the moment to be much more than a chance to give the youngster a taste of high school varsity ball.

Wright, once a raw, but talented 14-year-old herself, is now a seasoned old pro, albeit one who still delights in loudly leading every sing-along chant from the bench.

As their coach departed, she leaned in, whispered something to Wells, then grinned, the kind of smile which covers the prairie, whacked her mitt lightly against her young teammate’s arm and headed back to the plate, showering her newest battery mate with a wave of confidence.

Two pitches later, the transformation was complete.

Wells body language noticeably changed, her back went straighter, her pitches started to hum, and, whether they knew it or not, the Wolves were on the comeback trail.

She whiffed the second batter she faced, escaped the inning, struck out the side in the fourth, and chucked five impressive innings of relief.

Bolstered by their fab frosh, the Wolves, after racking up nine walks, finally broke through with their bats.

When it came, it came all at once, with three straight base-knocks — Chelsea Prescott smoking a two-run triple to left, Wright mashing an RBI triple, then Mollie Bailey crunching an RBI single to center.

Back within 12-6, there was hope … and then it was seemingly gone.

A couple of soft hits which found teeny-tiny holes in the defense helped Friday Harbor inch back out to a 16-6 lead, and things looked bleak once more as the bottom of the sixth approached.

Of ye of little faith.

Three straight walks to open the sixth juiced the bags, a passed ball brought one home, then Wright cranked a two-run single and scampered home when a throw to second skipped wildly away from the shortstop.

Crownover eked out a walk, Wells stroked a single to left, and it was time for the other freshman to get dramatic.

Having made her varsity debut a mere half hour before, Audrianna Shaw was a wild card, and Friday Harbor never saw her coming.

Leaning into a pitch, she went Incredible Hulk on the ball, mashing a frozen rope to center, where it smacked the top of the madly running fielder’s glove and skipped away.

With the lead cut to 16-12, Coupeville went for the KO, only to see their foes dodge the punch when Prescott’s long shot to left with the bags full was run down.

It mattered not, however, as the improbable had become the possible.

Even though Friday Harbor scraped out a run in the seventh to go up 17-12, the air felt different.

Some would say it was just the already-cold weather being affected by the sun sinking over the horizon. Others are more poetic.

Coupeville sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, and the final nine reached base.

The big blow was a rocket launched into left by Crownover, a booming double which tore the cover off the screaming, pleading ball and plated a runner.

Equally important were four consecutive bases-loaded walks, with Shaw, Smith, Emma Mathusek, and Prescott bringing teammates home while displaying eagle eyes at the plate.

That set up Wright, the four-year starter, the four-year hitting sensation, she of the voice run raspy after three-plus hours of screamin’ and hootin’ and hollerin’ and singin’ and laughin’ her head off.

The slump of the pitcher’s shoulders told the tale, almost as much as the way Wright rolled to the plate, lofting her bat onto her shoulder and licking her lips in anticipation.

Friday Harbor’s hurler whipped a good pitch — the best she had thrown all inning — but, with one final laugh, Wright crushed her hopes and dreams, whipping a walk-off hit back up the middle.

Scout Smith came flying home, giving dad Chris, whose CHS baseball team had to postpone its game due to illness, a chance to pump his fists in the air and go home happy.

All across the prairie, bedlam rained.

Bad calls were forgotten, early struggles placed to the side, and, while it’s just one win, in the first game of a 20-game regular-season schedule, its impact could be monumental.

“Just a great game, by a group of girls who never gave in!,” Kevin McGranahan said. “Give Izzy a lot of credit, for coming in and holding them down. Really good first game for her, and Audri, too.”

Coupeville finished with eight hits and 20 walks, with Smith and Mathusek eking out five free passes apiece.

Senior sluggers Wright (1B, 3B) and Crownover (2B, 2B) led the hit attack, with Prescott (3B), Shaw (3B), Wells (1B), and Bailey (1B) also connecting on base-knocks.

Coral Caveness collected two walks, while Chloe Wheeler, Nicole Laxton, and Mackenzie Davis all walked as well, as every Wolf in uniform reached base.

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   Logan Martin scored seven points in the final minutes of the fourth quarter Thursday, as Coupeville roared from 12 down to beat Forks 45-44. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Now that is going to be the longest, most tear-stained, really, really morbidly-quiet trip ever taken on a school bus.

When you blow a 12-point lead in the final six minutes, get gut-punched by a ref with impeccable integrity, then lose on the game’s final play, it doesn’t make for a pleasant evening.

So … good thing none of us live in Forks!

Cause the Coupeville side of the stands, the insanely-loud, deliriously-happy side, they exited the CMS gym Thursday flashing smiles, doing fist-bumps and basking in the glow of an early contender for best game of the year.

Even if we are only four days in to 2018.

So, what drove the Wolf fans into hysterics?

Watching the Coupeville Middle School varsity boys basketball squad roar back to shock the visiting Spartans 45-44, literally winning on the final shot of the night — a pressure-packed and artfully-swished little jumper off of the magical finger tips of Xavier Murdy.

The win, coming in Coupeville’s first game since Dec. 14, lifts the varsity to 4-2 on the season and stretches its current winning streak to three games.

It also avenges a loss at Forks a month ago, while being the kind of win they’ll still be talking about long after these players have graduated high school.

The victory also forced an overly-yappy road fan or two to go stone silent at the end (my right ear greatly appreciates that) and made up for a loss in the JV contest.

In that one, the very-green Wolves played a billion times better than they did the first time around against Forks, but still fell 49-20.

Varsity roars:

Coupeville led exactly three times, once at 3-1 on an early Murdy three-ball, and twice in the game’s final 43 seconds.

But hey, the only lead that matters is the one where the clock says 0:00 in the fourth.

Trailing by seven at the half, CMS got as close as four in the third, then seemed to buckle. To which it responded, guess again.

Having surrendered eight straight points — two buckets to end the third and two to start the fourth — the Wolves were in their biggest hole of the night at 38-26.

Then, everything started to click, with the fuse being lit not by a shot, but by a pass.

Out on the run after scooping up a loose ball, Hawthorne Wolfe, the floppy-haired heir to Pistol Pete, who has never met a three-ball attempt he didn’t like trying, passed on a shot.

Instead, he zipped a note-perfect pass to sprinting teammate Caleb Meyer, who snatched the ball out of the air and muscled his way through a pair of defenders for a quick layup.

The pass, and bucket, were huge.

Not only did it break Coupeville’s dry spell, but, in one wham-bam play, it seemed to take most of Forks confidence and toss it in the direction of the very-hungry Wolves.

CMS repeated the same Wolfe-to-Meyer play 10 seconds later, before Meyer dished a gorgeous lob to Murdy for a layup the next time down the floor.

With their lead being scratched away, the Spartans got tight, their shots started to rim out after sweetly falling all night, and Logan Martin stepped up to deliver the KO.

He had been battling hard on the boards all night, but in the final minutes Martin morphed into a dead-eye shooter, knocking down a bank shot in the paint, then scrambling out to the top to drain a trey.

Toss in a Murdy three-ball and a free throw from Meyer, and, as all the blood drained out of the faces of the once-noisy Forks fans, Coupeville was back within 42-41.

Cue an insane final 43 ticks of the clock.

The Wolves struck first, with Martin taking an in-bounds pass from Meyer and turning it into a go-ahead layup, somehow getting the ball to drop while three Spartans beat the crud out of him (without a foul being called).

Forks had the answer, though, when their own big man powered inside for a bucket and foul with 22 seconds to play. Or, at least it seemed that way.

Back up 44-43, the Spartans couldn’t get the free throw to drop.

And then it got bonkers.

Forks snared the rebound, sent a pass out to the right, and a Spartan nailed what could have been a game-icing three-ball.

Except Jim Shulock, a ref with ice water in his veins and great moral integrity, screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO SIR!!!!!!”

Staring down Forks players, coaches and fans as he knifed them, a guy who’s been wearing black and white stripes since before these kids were born, made the only call, in good conscience, he could make.

The only correct one, though one 98.3% of refs would probably not have had the guts to make at that moment.

A Forks player had clearly leveled a Wolf right in front of Shulock, and he punched the air, waving off the trey and calling the offensive foul on the visitors.

The Spartans wailed, while Coupeville simply went to work.

Given the ball back, down by one, with the clock ticking madly away, the Wolves found Murdy on the left side of the paint, and X-Man was flawless.

His short jumper over a sea of arms put CMS up 45-44, then, with the noise in the gym at levels that made Navy jet pilots all the way up in Oak Harbor wince, the Wolf defense sealed the deal.

Forks couldn’t hear, couldn’t think, and couldn’t hold it together, failing to get a shot off in the final eight seconds, sending Wolf fans cascading on to the floor, a sea of humanity losing its collective freakin’ mind.

“Every game should be like this!!!,” bellowed one Wolf coach, Bob Martin, as the other, Dante Mitchell, high-fived their players.

Murdy finished with a game-high 17, while Logan Martin banged home 12. Wolfe netted nine, Meyer knocked in five and Cody Roberts tickled the twines for two.

JV improves:

Coupeville’s younger players managed only six points in 32 minutes the first time these teams faced off, but they had that beat Thursday after just the first quarter.

Gabe Shaw banged down low for the game’s opening bucket, and while the Wolves couldn’t hold the lead against a more-polished Forks unit, they hung tough in the early going.

Alex Murdy was a particular standout, shutting down the Spartans on three consecutive plays down the floor. First he delivered a thunderous blocked shot, before making off with a pair of steals on back-to-back possessions.

Forks used a 9-0 surge to open the second quarter, fueled by a long three-ball, and, after that, the Wolves had few chances to get back in the game.

That didn’t stop CMS, though, as Ty Hamilton had a nice slash through the paint for a bucket and Dominic Coffman reinvented himself as a one-man wrecking crew.

He tossed in five of Coupeville’s seven third-quarter points, including getting three the hard way, but it was his electric intensity on defense which probably scarred the Spartans for life.

Near the end of the third quarter, Coffman stopped a Forks breakaway by delivering a well-timed karate chop to the head of the guy about to drop a layup. Instead the ball went one way, the rival went the other, and Wolf fans erupted.

Going one better, Coffman stopped a second fast break by leveling a Spartan like a semi-truck hitting a grocery cart full of melons left in the middle of the interstate.

On that one, the ref shook his head, tried to hide his smile and softly intoned, “foul, #1, foot to … the mouth.”

When he wasn’t blowing folks up, Coffman dropped in five points to pace the CMS offense. Isaiah Bittner (4), Aiden Burdge (4), Alex Murdy (3), Hamilton (2) and Shaw (2) also chipped in.

Tony Garcia, Kevin Partida, Alex Wasik, Brayden Coatney and Levi Pulliam rounded out the roster.

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