Living up to their mascot name, the Sentinels were on the lookout for a chance to break the deadlock.
They found it in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Adina Palinsky set down a suicide squeeze to score Marki Creger Zier from third base, eliminating Sequim in the first round of the West Central District fastpitch playoffs with a 1-0, extra-inning win May 17.
Sequim’s Carly Swingle pitched a solid seven-plus innings but took the loss after the Wolves failed to capitalize on opportunities to score in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
“I think we played a great game,” Sequim coach Mel Hendrickson said. “There’s not much you can do with a suicide squeeze. That girl (Creger Zier) is the fastest they’ve got.”
It was only fitting that a suicide squeeze, perhaps fastpitch’s most exciting tiebreaker, ended an impressive pitching duel between Swingle and Steilacoom sophomore Beth Kassuhn. Swingle went the distance, giving up just four hits and four walks, striking out seven Sentinels along the way. Kassuhn was as good, giving up five hits and three walks, striking out 13 Wolves.
And when the Wolves had their chances, Kassuhn seemed to pitch even better. She got Sequim slugger Yolanda Chinn to pop up with two runners on and no one out in the fourth, then struck out the next two Wolves. In the sixth, after a Chelsea Winfield single, Maddy Zbaraschuk reached first on an error. Kassuhn intentionally walked Chinn, then struck out the next batter and got a pop-up to end the inning.
“She had this screwball curvy thing that was confusing some of our batters,” Hendrickson said. “She had a lot of spin on the ball and we couldn’t quite (hit it) solid enough.”
The Wolves’ best chance for a run might have come in the third inning but base-running errors spoiled a pair of hits.
In the bottom of the eighth, Swingle hit the speedy Creger Zier with a pitch and saw her advance to second after a sacrifice bunt. Swingle walked the next batter to face Palinsky.
“We tried to pitch that girl up to get her to pop up,” Hendrickson said.
But Palinsky slapped Swingle’s pitch toward the mound and Creger Zier easily beat the throw home for the winning run.
Despite Kassuhn’s strong game, Winfield managed three hits while Swingle and Hailey McHugh had Sequim’s other hits.
Sequim finishes the season 10-8.
“I said (to the girls), ‘I want you guys to play hard as you can and win or lose, when you walk off that field you can be proud’ … and that’s what they did,” Hendrickson said. “They have nothing to hang their heads about. Steilacoom is a good team.”
The Sentinels went on to battle their way into the class 2A state tournament. Following a loss to North Mason, Steilacoom beat Klahowya 4-1 in the consolation semi-final and topped Fife 4-2 for the state berth.
The Wolves look to regroup next spring after losing some key players, including Swingle, Chinn, McHugh, Lisa Miller and Paige Seamands. But several underclassmen like Winfield, Zbaraschuk and Lea Hopson got plenty of varsity action this season and give the Wolves numerous returnees.
Said Hendrickson: “I’m excited for next year; we have a good core group coming back.”
The Peninsula College Pirates’ softball squad has signed six players for the 2009 softball season, headed up by Sequim’s Carly Swingle.
In addition to the hard-throwing Sequim pitcher, head coach Heather Sankey has received letters of intent from Port Angeles’ Colleen Cary and Caitlin Curtis, from Richland’s Sasha Ramirez and Sam Haberlin, and from Kari Gardner of Henderson, Nev.
“(Carly) is an exceptionally strong pitcher, who I think will do very well in the NWAACC,” coach Sankey said of the Sequim ace. “She has a dominating presence on the mound with very solid control.”
Swingle went 33-14 in three years as a varsity pitcher for the Wolves, including a 13-0 mark in 2006. She was first team All-Nisqually League in 2006, first team All-Olympic League in 2007 and second team All-Olympic League in 2008, when she tossed 95 innings and struck out 85 batters with a 1.93 earned run average. She has also pitched in three state tournament games, including a fifth-place finish for Sequim in 2007, and four district playoff games. Swingle also has a solid bat, hitting .300 this year with eight RBI.
“Colleen will add definite numbers to our bats and has a very high softball IQ, which will gain her a lot of extra bases,” Sankey said of Cary, who batted .340, including five doubles and 11 singles in 47 at bats.
“Caitlin is my diamond in the rough,” Sankey said of Curtis. “I see Caitlin coming on and being an asset to our outfield. She has a very strong and accurate arm, plus she’s extremely fast.”
From off the Peninsula, Gardner played infield for Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nev., while Ramirez, a catcher, and Haberlin, an infielder, both played for Hanford High School, located near the Tri-Cities.