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Posts Tagged ‘walk-off’

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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CHS junior Scout Smith, destroyer of worlds, walk-off grand-slam hitter, and newly-certified prairie legend. (Photo by Charlotte Young)

When Scout Smith is older, when she’s in the coach’s box like her mom and dad before her, when she’s possibly coaching her own children, her mind may drift back.

And, in that moment, she will be 16 years old again, a wiry fireball sauntering to the plate, the sun barely peeking out from behind a wall of clouds on the Coupeville prairie.

Scooter will remember the roar of the crowd, the feel of the bat in her hands, the look of fear in the pitcher’s eyes.

It will be April 15, 2019 one more time.

And then, as she squeezes her eyes shut, she will relive the moment she went from being a very good softball player to stepping into history, forever etching her name among the prairie legends.

All she needed was a hit, a poke into open space, a bouncer back up the middle, a way to plate Veronica Crownover and cap one of the great comeback wins in school history.

But very good softball players bounce the winner back up the middle.

Legends beat the ever-livin’ snot out of the ball and bash epic walk-off grand-slam home runs.

Scout Smith is no longer a very good softball player. She’s a legend.

And so it came to pass, that the Wolf softball sluggers, after rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, crushed the very soul out of Cedar Park Christian, winning 8-4 on Smith’s blast in the bottom of the ninth.

The win lifts Coupeville to 4-1 in North Sound Conference play, 6-5 overall, leaving them in a first-place tie with Granite Falls (4-1, 7-5), while Cedar Park (3-2, 7-3) falls a game off the lead.

Riding the high of Monday’s victory, the Wolves travel to Granite Wednesday, where they will bid to take complete control of the league in one 72-hour tear.

For the moment, they will bask in a win in which they never held the lead until the final swing of the game.

Freshman hurler Izzy Wells was droppin’ fire, whiffing 11 CPC hitters, and the Wolf defense played inspired ball.

It didn’t matter where the ball was hit, because a Wolf (and her glove) were there to deny the Eagles time and again.

Wolf catcher Sarah Wright picked runners off multiple bases, shortstop Chelsea Prescott nailed a runner coming home with a sizzlin’ throw, Crownover pulled off multiple unassisted put-outs at first, and somehow Emma Mathusek topped them all.

Running on a full-out sprint in the 7th inning, the Wolf junior flat-out robbed Cedar Park’s best hitter, throwing out her mitt at the last second to swipe a rapidly-dropping ball from the heavens.

What looked like an extra-base hit became just another out, as Mathusek flipped the ball back in, then stalked away, almost daring anyone else to try and hit it within a mile of her mitt.

And yet, as it came up to hit in the bottom of the seventh, Coupeville trailed 4-1, with just a fourth-inning Mollie Bailey RBI single to its credit, and things looked dire.

The Wolves scraped together one run, mashing together a Wright single, a Bailey grounder which was booted for an error, and then a Crownover RBI single.

But, as quickly as the final-inning rally began, it almost ended.

A strikeout and a fielder’s choice grounder left the Wolves down to their final out, still trailing 4-2, while Cedar Park’s extremely-enthusiastic third-baseman celebrated as if the Eagles had just won a state title.

They had not.

If you didn’t know Wells was a freshman, nothing about the way she conducts herself on the softball diamond would give you a clue.

Perhaps her insides are a bubbling cauldron of anxiety. It’s possible.

But Wells projects extreme calmness.

Whether she’s firing pitches into Wright’s mitt, pulling off web gems, or standing tall at the plate, Ms. Unflappable is the most self-assured 9th grader since Katrina McGranahan debuted in 2015.

And, with the very same former Wolf ace sitting high in the stands, keeping up a pro-Izzy stream of comments, Wells responded.

Down to her final strike, she whipped her bat through the gentle prairie breeze, rocketing a single into center field, sending Bailey and Coral Caveness careening for home, and suddenly we had a whole new ball game.

Which almost ended on the very next batter.

In her first three trips to the plate, Smith had put good bat on the ball, only to have CPC fielders run down her shots.

Trip #4 was (almost) legendary, as she laced what looked like the game-winner, only to be denied one more time.

Not on getting a hit, as the ball tore a chunk out of the outfield grass this time, but when an admittedly great relay throw nailed Wells by a fingertip at the plate.

Wolf fans, seemingly denied the walk-off win, howled.

They quickly got over it, however.

Wells, who had been aces in the pitcher’s circle through seven innings, was lights out in the extra frames.

She faced the minimum six hitters across the eight and ninth, punching out three Eagles on strikeouts, while getting some help from Bailey, who made a beautiful snag on a checked-swing liner down the third-base line.

That set up magic time, otherwise known as the bottom of the ninth.

Operating under softball’s sometimes odd rules, both teams started play in the 9th inning by being handing a free runner at second.

While Cedar Park’s player never got more than an inch off the bag as Wells blitzed her teammates, Coupeville’s runner, Bailey, went a lot further.

After skipping to third on a passed ball, she took time out from her busy afternoon to dance on the bag, then found herself with nowhere to go even as two more batters got on base.

With one eye on Bailey, a CPC fielder booted Crownover’s chopper, but recovered quickly enough to keep the wily Wolf at third from scampering home.

Bailey was similarly stuck when Caveness dumped an infield single in front of the third-baseman, then found herself forced at home on a Wells grounder.

Bases juiced, two outs, edge of your seat, strangled cries from both sides, a prayer or two curling up into the sky.

Body language told it all.

The CPC hurler, so effective for so long, leaned back, a haunted look in her eyes, relentlessly snapping the ball into her glove, unable to control what had become a twitch over the final innings.

And at the plate, not a muscle moving, steely gaze boring a hole through the universe itself, Scout Smith, lil’ sister of Wolf greats CJ and Hunter, decided it was time to claim the title of “Best Freakin’ Athlete in the Family.”

It wasn’t just that she hit a home-run.

She flat-out destroyed the ball, her bat ripping it nearly in half, sending it on a line up, up and away as Wolf fans exploded out of their seats, tripping over themselves and each other, a shower of sunflower seeds cascading to the Earth as Smith rounded third.

The ball cleared the left field fence in a hurry, and Cow Town went crazy.

It was history. It was a coronation.

Bow before Scout Smith, Destroyer of Worlds. And be glad she’s on our side.

As she hit home plate, she was mobbed by her teammates, who thumped on her, hugged her, and screamed in her ears until all she could do was stagger away, grin plastered from ear to ear.

Caught up in the celebration, CHS coach Kevin McGranahan was a man sitting on cloud nine.

“High school careers are made of nights like this and every girl in uniform contributed to this win,” he said. “Great team win!

“Wolves never say die!!”

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   Even with a final-inning loss Tuesday, Central Whidbey is flying high at 14-1 on the season. (Stephanie Pulliam photo)

Live by the walk-off, die by the walk-off.

For a moment, it looked like the Central Whidbey Little League Minors baseball squad had pulled off its second burst of final-inning magic in three days.

A lead-off home-run in the top of the sixth Tuesday staked the squad to a one-run lead.

As Peyton Caveness stamped on home, remaining undefeated and cruising into the championship game of the Henry Pope Memorial Tournament looked all but certain.

But it wasn’t to be.

Unlike Sunday, when Central Whidbey was playing as the home team, and a home-run ended the game on the spot, Tuesday the Coupeville kids had to shut down their foes in the bottom of the sixth to notch another win.

And this time, for the first time all season, they couldn’t get the outs.

South Whidbey #2 sent three hitters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, plated the first two, and sprinted off with a 3-2 win.

The loss put the first ding in a 14-1 record for Central Whidbey and drops it into the loser bracket of the double-elimination tourney.

The hardball warriors, who have won two of three at the tourney, return to the South End Wednesday for a loser-out game.

Win and they get a rematch with South Whidbey #2 Thursday. Win that one, and the two squads play a rubber game for the tourney title Friday.

Tuesday’s game was a pitcher’s duel most of the way.

The teams exchanged zeroes on the scoreboard until the fourth, when Central Whidbey finally broke through.

Levi Pulliam smacked a one-out single to get things started, followed by a two-out RBI triple off the bat of Jack Porter.

Unfortunately for Central, Porter was stranded at third, a fate suffered earlier in the game by his brother Johnny, who also crunched a two-out triple, only to watch as the next CW hitter also went down on strikes.

South Whidbey scraped out its own run in the bottom of the fourth, the teams exchanged goose eggs in the fifth, then the game went on its emotional see-saw in the final inning.

Central Whidbey collected seven hits, with Caveness (bunt single, inside the park home run) and Johnny Porter (single, triple) accounting for four.

Jack Porter’s triple and singles from Pulliam and Landon Roberts rounded out the attack.

The three-headed pitching beast of Chase Anderson, Pulliam and Jordan Bradford whiffed 11 South Whidbey hitters across the six-inning game.

Mike Robinett, John Rachal, Alex Smith and Kyrese Simpson also saw action for Central Whidbey.

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Undefeated and it feels so good. (Stephanie Pulliam photos)

Mike Robinett (left) and Landon Roberts are ready to take on the world.

Their play has been as red-hot as their uniforms.

   Levi Pulliam is thrilled to find out, you hit a game-winning home run, you just may get a cake out of the deal.

You can call Levi Pulliam “The Cardiac Kid.”

Sitting on a full count, he hammered a game-winning, bottom-of-the-sixth, walk-off home-run Sunday, keeping the miracle run going for his team.

Now sitting at a pristine 14-0 after upending host South Whidbey 3-2, the Central Whidbey Little League Minors baseball squad is also a flawless 2-0 in the Henry Pope Memorial Tournament.

The Coupeville nine, who shredded Oak Harbor Saturday, return to the South End of the Island Tuesday for their next tourney tilt.

The double-elimination event runs June 3-12.

Sunday both teams played a tight game, with South Whidbey twice taking a one-run lead, only to see Central come right back in the bottom of each inning.

The two squads exchanged runs in the first and fourth, mixed in a bunch of zeroes the rest of the way, then stepped back to let Pulliam be the hero.

Bashing a shot down the right field line, he took off as his coach, Jon Roberts, lost his mind.

“It runs hard to DEEP right field. I think I blacked out as he rounded first, screaming ‘run!’,” said a still-giddy hardball guru. “The throw into second takes a while and the throw to the plate is too late. Game over!!

“Best game we played all year!”

Central Whidbey was on top of its game in every way.

Pitchers Chase Anderson, Pulliam and Jordan Bradford combined to whiff 11 of the 21 hitters they faced.

At the plate, Central Whidbey got base-knocks from six different hitters.

Pulliam’s dinger was the big hit, but he got help from Peyton Caveness, Anderson, Bradford and brothers Jack and Johnny Porter, who all collected singles.

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Lauren Rose stamps on home for one of the 33 runs scored Wednesday. (John Fisken photo)

   Lauren Rose stamps on home for one of the 33 runs scored Wednesday. (John Fisken photos)

Fighting through harsh wind (but no rain)

   Fighting through harsh wind (but no rain), the Wolves prepare to claim their one true destiny.

If you weren’t there, this is going to seem a bit like a fairy tale.

And, if you were, your brain is probably still a bit frozen and sluggish, so you’d probably believe just about anything right now.

But I swear, it really happened. All of it.

Playing in non-stop, icy cold, gale force winds (which deposited a fair amount of infield dirt into the mouths of fans), the Coupeville High School softball squad somehow found another miracle Wednesday in what is shaping up to be a season chock full of miracles.

Trailing by seven runs heading into the bottom of the sixth against visiting Bellevue Christian, the Wolves pulled off a stunner, rallying to knock off the Vikings 17-16 in eight innings.

The non-conference win, as improbable, unlikely and ultimately satisfying as any in memory on the prairie, lifted the never-say-die sluggers to an impeccable 4-1 on the season.

Now of course, the question lingers: are the Wolves, who have shown a penchant for storming from behind, good or lucky?

I say both.

They are young (not a senior on the roster), they are talented, they seem to have no nerves, they play as a team, picking each other up during rough moments while celebrating joyous moments by holding spontaneous group hugs, and they feed on other school’s mistakes.

Trailing 15-8 entering the sixth, very cold, a bit desperate after frittering away two-run leads twice, Coupeville could have quietly packed things in and headed home for dinner.

Except this team doesn’t begin to think that way.

Waiting until they had two outs (and two runners on base), the Wolves then reeled off five straight RBI hits, plating six runners and pulling back within 15-14.

Heather Nastali started things, slapping an RBI single up the middle, then Lauren Rose, Mikayla Elfrank and Katrina McGranahan went rat-a-tat-tat with their own run-producing base knocks.

Sarah Wright, the freshman catcher who plays like a seasoned vet, her raucous encouragement for her teammates reverberating across the prairie, closed the surge by crunching a two-run single that tore off a hunk of second base as it skittered into the outfield.

Bellevue Christian, suddenly flailing wildly, reloaded the bags, but escaped (seemingly) inducing a ground out to end the inning.

Except, the game had turned, and turned convincingly.

The Vikings looked miserable, they looked frazzled, they looked stunned, they looked like they wanted to be anywhere else but trapped on the frozen tundra the locals were passing off as a prairie.

And the Wolves jumped on them and devoured them whole.

First CHS took BC down 1-2-3 for the first (and only time) on the afternoon in the top of the seventh, with McGranahan reaching deep for a last bit of fire in her pitcher’s arm.

Then Coupeville dodged the biggest bullet yet.

With Jae “Flash” LeVine running for Veronica Crownover, who had started the bottom of the seventh with a gorgeous single into the gap, Bellevue had what should have been the KO punch.

Rose lashed a one-out liner down the first-base line, the Viking fielder snagged it in mid-air as LeVine started to break for second, and we were one second away from an unassisted, Coupeville-crushing double play.

Only, LeVine, the Mighty Mite herself, sacrificed her spine, throwing her body back to the bag in mid-stride and somehow, improbably, staying alive.

Which is all Elfrank needed, as the sophomore sensation made boyfriend Jordan Ford’s voice go up three octaves as he screamed like a madman when she immediately doubled LeVine home to tie the game.

Now, this being a game like no other, played in conditions that made grown men cry (starting with me…), there was no way it could end immediately.

The Viking third-baseman, who had taken a shot to the hand earlier in the game, somehow went deep into the hole two batters later to throw Wright out by a step, preventing attempt #1 at a walk-off hit and sending us to extra innings.

With both teams playing the eighth under tie-breaker rules (teams started with a runner at second), Bellevue eked out a run to re-take the lead.

At which point Hope “The Surgeon” Lodell decided to make a bid for automatic, early induction into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

Fighting through the swirling winds in center field, Lodell snagged a high, arcing shot for the second out of the inning, then unleashed a cannon shot that nearly ripped Wright’s glove off her hand at home.

She held on though, even through a pop that sounded like someone had decided to go duck-hunting on the prairie, and slapped the inning-ending tag on a Viking runner who meekly collapsed in a pile and stayed down.

Roaring like a wild woman, Wright charged into a pile of her teammates as Lodell sprinted in to join the giddy melee.

Now, let’s stop for a moment and remember, Coupeville was still down a run.

Not that it mattered, because Bellevue took the field looking like the walking dead.

When you face the team of destiny and fail to land the knockout punch, you know, deep in your heart, the bell is about to toll for thee.

And, of course, it did, because this is a fairy tale come true.

Coupeville juiced the bags, thanks to a dropped ball at third (divine providence) and some crafty base-running, before Tamika Nastali and LeVine brought home the tying and winning runs with back-to-back bases-loaded walks.

As joy swept the land, as bitterly cold fans staggered around hugging each other (mainly for warmth), as the Wolves danced on the field and the Vikings stared into a dark abyss that even a stop at McDonald’s wouldn’t fix, one thing was certain.

Call it fate.

Call it destiny.

But call it amazing.

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