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Freshman Eryn Wood has been a strong addition to the CHS varsity tennis team this spring. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

It gets easier from here on out.

Most likely.

The Coupeville High School girls tennis team has played an odd schedule this spring, thanks to numerous issues, from weather to lack of non-conference foes.

When they have been able to take the court, the Wolves have clashed with two top teams, King’s and South Whidbey, and been stung twice by both schools.

A 5-0 loss at Langley Thursday leaves Coupeville sitting at 0-4 on the season heading into a road match Friday afternoon.

That opponent, Friday Harbor, is also 0-4, and the two schools meet for back-to-back contests today and then on Whidbey Apr. 30.

After that comes Coupeville’s lone non-conference match May 1 at Chimacum (2-11), before a doubleheader May 2 at Granite Falls (3-7).

The North Sound Conference tourney is set for May 7-8, also at Granite Falls, where a long string of tennis courts stretch into the sunset.

After that, if any Wolves qualify, is bi-districts May 17, and state, which goes down May 24-25.

 

Complete Thursday results:

 

Varsity:

1st Singles — Genna Wright lost to Ashley Ricketts 6-2, 6-3

2nd Singles — Jillian Mayne lost to McKenna Kelley 6-0, 6-2

1st Doubles — Tia Wurzrainer/Avalon Renninger lost to Allison Papritz/Mary Zisette 6-0, 6-2

2nd Doubles — Eryn Wood/Emily Fiedler lost to Farriss Jokinen/Ainsley Nelson 6-0, 6-0

3rd Doubles — Jaimee Masters/Abby Mulholland lost to Oliana Stange/Chloe Loehr 6-1, 6-0

 

JV:

4th Doubles — Bruna Moratori/Elaira Nicolle lost to Elizabeth/Erin 8-0

5th Doubles — Katelin McCormick/Noelle Daigneault lost to Annika/Emma 6-1

6th Doubles — Annika Heller/Lola Jimenez lost 6-3

7th Doubles — Mary Milnes/Maddy Andrews lost to Joanie/Jessie 6-1

8th Doubles — Cassidy Holmes/Cecilia Camarena lost to Avery/Ella 7-5

9th Doubles — Moratori/Nicolle lost to Ashley/Sadie 6-0

10th Doubles — McCormick/Daigneault lost 6-4

11th Doubles — Heller/Jimenez lost to Sarah/Kilynn 6-0

12th Doubles — Mortatori/Nicolle lost to Lexi/Maya 6-2

13th Doubles — Milnes/Andrews lost to Drayah/Ali 6-2

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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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Freshman Xavier Murdy played strongly Tuesday in Coupeville soccer’s regular-season finale. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

In small bursts, there were positives.

For one thing, the Coupeville High School boys soccer squad got to play on its own field Tuesday, something which hasn’t happened in more than a full month.

After five straight road games, and then a scheduled home game which turned into a win by forfeit, when Cedar Park Christian declined to travel, it was about time.

Or at least that’s probably what the folks running the concession stand were thinking.

With hot dogs and candy being doled out, and the stands fairly full thanks to it being a rivalry game, that was positive.

The final result on the scoreboard, with visiting South Whidbey romping to an 8-1 victory, and maybe, possibly, running the score up a bit at the end, was less positive.

But, even with the loss, Coupeville, which wraps league play at 3-5, is sitting in a decent place.

The Wolves, 5-8 overall, are the #3 seed from the North Sound Conference heading into the district playoffs, which means they get to host a postseason game.

And truly host it this time.

While playing in District 3, Coupeville’s “home” playoff games were held at Oak Harbor’s stadium, because of that district’s insistence on all soccer playoff games being held on turf fields.

Back in District 1 this year, the Wolves don’t face the same restriction.

That means Monday, Apr. 29, they’re slated to host Cedar Park in a loser-out playoff game on the grass at Coupeville’s Mickey Clark Field.

Kickoff is 6 PM and, because it’s a playoff game, admission will be charged.

Win against CPC and Coupeville advances to play at least two more playoff games, with a solid shot at advancing to bi-districts.

Tuesday night, the scrappy Wolves didn’t play all that badly, but they did run into a bit of a buzz-saw in a Falcon squad which is 7-0 in league, 11-1 overall.

“We had plenty of good minutes, just not a good game,” said Coupeville coach Kyle Nelson. “Give South Whidbey their due, though, they’re a good, tough team.”

The Falcons scored early and often, finding holes in the Wolf defense and rattling home five unanswered goals in the first half.

After the break, the Wolves played aggressively, with Derek Leyva lofting in his 12th goal of the season, before narrowly missing on another score the very next time down the field.

Coupeville, which was playing without several starters, including goaltender Dewitt Cole, was the more physical team and bounced a few bodies around in the late going.

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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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Coupeville High School freshman Hawthorne Wolfe, circling a ball in an earlier game, cracked a single Wednesday at South Whidbey. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Seize the moment and build on it.

While they fell 8-3 at South Whidbey Wednesday, remaining win-less on the season, the Coupeville High School baseball squad exited rainy Langley with some positives.

For one, the Wolves, who have struggled mightily to push runs across, tied their season-best output, and did it by getting key hits at the right moment.

Also, while Coupeville is now 0-8 in North Sound Conference play, 0-12 overall, it once again pushed a strong team and made them play the full seven innings.

South Whidbey is off to the best start in program history at 13-1, and at 10-1 in league play sits just a half-game off of state power Cedar Park Christian (11-0, 13-1).

And yet, through the first two games of a three-game set (the series wraps Friday in Coupeville), the Wolves have been competitive with the Falcons.

Wednesday, CHS fell behind 7-0 after three innings, before scratching its way back into the game.

South Whidbey put two runs on the board in the bottom of the first, with the big blow coming off of Kody Newman’s bat, then tacked on five more in the third.

Using a mixture of hits, walks and a badly-timed Coupeville fielding error, the Falcons surged ahead and seemed on the verge of ten-running the Wolves.

But CHS starting pitcher Daniel Olson and reliever Jonny Carlson fought their way out of jams in the fourth and fifth, respectively, both stranding two runners and blanking the Falcons.

Olson induced a ground-out to end his final inning of work, while Carlson got a Falcon swinging to bring a close to his temporary problem.

Freshman Cody Roberts came on in the sixth to get an out, as Coupeville’s pitching trio matched up fairly well with Falcon hurlers Brent Batchelor and Drew Fry.

Coupeville had a shot at scoring way back in the first inning, but couldn’t quite come up with the magic touch.

Matt Hilborn led off the game with a single, but was thrown out on a steal attempt.

Bouncing right back, the Wolves put two more aboard in the inning, thanks to a Jake Pease walk and a Dane Lucero single, only to come up short when Falcon catcher Dexter Jokinen pounced on a ball and threw the hitter out.

After not getting much of anything through the next two innings, Coupeville finally cracked the code, tossing a single run on the board in the fourth, fifth, and sixth.

The Wolves set the table by eking out walks, but for one of the rare times this season, came up with hits in crucial run-scoring opportunities.

Gavin Knoblich got the base-knock in the fourth, Hawthorne Wolfe in the fifth, and Hilborn in the sixth.

It was an especially strong day for the Wolf senior, as Hilborn reached base all four times he stepped to the plate, singling twice and walking twice.

Coupeville entered the day having scored just two runs across four games in April, and was sitting with 10 runs in its first 11 games.

The three-run outburst tied the Wolves showing against Cedar Park back on Mar. 20.

The Wolves and Falcons wrap their series Friday, with Hilborn slated to take the mound for Coupeville. First pitch is 4 PM.

After that, CHS closes the regular season with three-game sets against Sultan (0-7, 0-12) and Granite Falls (1-6, 3-9), with two of three at home in both series.

With four of six NSC teams making the playoffs, there’s a huge gap between the top two teams — CPC and South Whidbey — and everyone else.

King’s (4-4, 5-8) is semi-comfortable in third-place currently, but with seven games left to play, Coupeville could still finish anywhere from third to sixth.

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