Wild day for Heritage Timberwolves revisited
So many runs, so many hits, so many plays.
The Heritage Timberwolves scored 18 runs in two games Tuesday in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League district softball tournament. And they needed every run.
First, they held off Mountain View 8-7 in the semifinals, then the Timberwolves rallied twice to beat top-seed Kelso 10-9 in extra innings for the championship.
On Wednesday, the two games to decide the second-place team from the district were rained out. So that gives me time to look back on a wild Tuesday for the Timberwolves.
First off, bravo to the folks who decided to move the pitchers back three feet this year. High school softball pitchers are now 43 feet from the plate, just like the college athletes.
Of course, that means, from time to time, we’ll have games such as Tuesday. Some might prefer the 2-1 games with the pitchers dominating from start to finish. And those still occur. (Example: Prairie edging Union for the 3A district crown last week.) But the new rule definitely puts the ball in play more, and that’s great for the game.
Every fielder is involved. Even if it’s just chasing down another hard-hit ball.
That seemed to be the case Tuesday. There were 36 hits in the championship game. Amazing. There were 24 hits in Heritage’s semifinal win over Mountain View. Amazing
Yet, there was some defense, too.
Heritage might want to thank Veronica Ellis for being tall and athletic enough to run down a long shot off the bat of Mountain View’s Paige Martin in the second inning of the semifinals. Ellis is 6 feet tall, and if she were 5-10, she probably would not have been able to make the catch.
No one could be certain if Martin’s ball would have been a home run or not, but without the catch, it would have been a two-run double or a three-run home run.
This came after Heritage scored eight runs in the top of the second inning. Mountain View responded with four in the bottom of the frame, and Ellis’ grab prevented two or three more runs.
Heritage ended up winning by one run.
Much, much later in the day, in the ninth inning of the championship game, Kelso had runners on second and third with no outs. Heritage pitcher Britney Sorenson got a strikeout, then induced a ground out and a fly ball. No runs scored in that frame in a game with so many hits. That was a fantastic pitching display by someone who was throwing her 15th inning of the day. (The first inning of the semifinals was pitched on Monday before that game was suspended by rain.)
Now to all that hitting.
After a scoreless first inning, Kelso’s first four batters hit safely in the second inning, leading to three runs.
Heritage got three hits in the bottom of the frame, with a run-scoring single by Ally Huss.
Each team got a hit in the third inning, but no scoring.
Karina Paavola of Kelso, described by one person at the game as the greatest No. 9 hitter in the state, hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. It was her second homer of the day. She hit a grand slam in Kelso’s 16-1 victory over Skyview in the semfinals. The Hilanders would get two more hits and another run in the frame for a 5-1 advantage.
(OK, in the old days, you know, before 43 feet, if one of the top teams in the state had a 5-1 lead, it was over. Done. Complete. So I must admit, after years of watching softball, it was difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that this game was just beginning.)
Heritage’s first five batters reached safely in the bottom of the fourth. The first out of the inning advanced two base runners, so even that was a good plate appearance. Brooke Sorenson had a two-run double, and Huss and Emily Kutzera also drove in runs. Another run scored on an error after a base hit, giving the Timberwolves a 6-5 advantage.
Kelso got a hit in the fifth inning, but nothing else. Britney Sorenson’s run-scoring single gave Heritage a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
That’s when my mind played tricks on me again. Surely, Heritage had the momentum here. It looked like the Timberwolves were on their way.
Kelso’s Brittany Sanders blasted a three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning. Tailer Snow added a solo shot minutes later. A four-run outburst just like that, and the Hilanders were back on top, 9-7.
It was Heritage’s turn to say never say die.
The Timberwolves’ first three batters got a hit in the bottom of the sixth, and Leila Stutesman and Huss drove in the two runs to tie the game.
No scoring in the seventh inning, although both teams got hits.
Then a funny thing happened: Nothing. Kelso went three-up, three-down in the top of the eighth inning, the first time that had happened all game. Then Heritage went three-up, three-down in the bottom of the eighth.
You already know about the ninth inning for Kelso, two runners on, no outs, and nobody scored.
It appeared Heritage wasn’t going to score, either, in the bottom of the ninth. The first two batters got out, with Emily Kutzera still standing on second base via the international tiebreaker rule.
But Brooke Sorenson, with two outs, stroked a single to right field and the speedy Kutzera scored easily for the 10-9 victory.
Check out these highlights:
Eight Timberwolves had at least one hit, five drove in at least one run.
Huss ended up 4 for 6 with two doubles and three RBIs; Britney Sorenson was 4 for 5 with a RBI; and Brooke Sorenson was 3 for 6 with two doubles and three RBIs, including the game-winner.
And for the day, that was 18 run on 34 hits and two victories for Heritage.
It added up to a district championship.