That was the closest game the Yelm High School softball team has played since its season opener, but the Tornados are still undefeated.
Behind a sharp outing by sophomore pitcher Tayelyn Cutler, Yelm shut out Timberline, 2-0, on Wednesday at the Regional Athletic Center in Lacey.
“It was nice to be able to face them going into Friday,” Yelm coach Lindsay Walton said. “We got hits and runs when we needed it, and we were able to hang on.”
Friday, Yelm travels to play Bonney Lake, which is the only other undefeated team remaining in Class 3A.
Both programs are favored to win their leagues — Yelm (13-0, 9-0) in the 3A South Sound Conference, and Bonney Lake (11-0, 7-0) in the 3A Pierce County League — and make deep playoff runs.
“Bonney Lake is going to be very good,” senior Carley Nelson said. “They have a very good pitcher, they have a very good team.
“That intensity, and staying in it mentally the whole game (against Timberline), I think it will prepare us well.”
Yelm hasn’t played a game decided by two runs or less since it edged 2A powerhouse W.F. West, 2-1, on March 14.
The Tornados have outscored opponents, 159-23, this season, and Cutler’s shutout on Wednesday was the third a Yelm pitcher has recorded. Yelm junior Drea Schwaier has thrown two.
Wednesday, Cutler struck out 15 batters — her changeup and rise ball were particularly effective — against the Blazers, while allowing three hits and four walks in seven innings.
She threw a no-hitter against Timberline in the first meeting between the programs on March 29, which Yelm won, 8-1.
“I just go out there, and I’m confident in myself that I can do it,” Cutler said.
She worked out of a jam in the top of the first, striking out the side despite a pair of Timberline hits.
Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks hit a lead-off single, and Bailey Haddock doubled to advance her to third three batters later, but both were stranded.
The Blazers didn’t record another hit until the seventh, when Hayden Nagel singled with one out. Cutler struck out the final two batters to end the game.
“I knew, that last inning, I had to go out and pitch my hardest,” she said.
Taylor-Sparks recorded the loss, but pitched six productive innings. She allowed two runs on five hits, and struck out five.
Timberline coach Charles Porche was satisfied with how the Blazers (9-6, 6-4 3A SSC), currently in third place, responded after the lopsided loss in the first meeting.
“To come back like this and pitch this well is a good thing,” he said. “Brooklyn, this season in particular, is the one we’re going to look to on the mound.”
Nelson, who went 2 for 3 with two doubles, and scored the game’s only two runs, said it was important to jump on early pitches.
“We know Brooklyn is a good pitcher, and we’d have to attack her early and get ahead in the count,” Nelson said.
Nelson led off the bottom of the second with her first double, and scored on a fielder’s choice three batters later.
She did the same in the fourth, and scored on Cutler’s bloop single to right to give Yelm its final two-run advantage.
The Tornados meet the Panthers at 4 p.m. Friday at Bonney Lake High School.
“They’ve got a beautiful facility to play at, and it should be good weather,” Walton said. “I’m hoping we can bring enthusiasm and intensity, and offensively bring our A-game.”