Coming into the home stretch of their season, the White River High School softball team has its eyes locked on claiming the 2A SPSL Mountain division title.
Standing in their way was none other than their regular league nemesis Fife.
The Hornets and Trojans have recent success that has sprouted a rivalry between the two teams with each having traveled to the 2A state championship game the past two years.
But on Thursday, White River got the better of their rivals and took one step closer back to championship form in a 7-0 win, going 2 1/2 games up on Fife in the league standings with four league games remaining.
“We’ve always had a great rivalry with Fife,” White River coach Brandon Walker said. “We were just really excited for this game. Knowing what we can do and putting it all together, they were ready and prepared.”
Nobody was more prepared than Maddi Pipitone.
Facing a lineup that contains hitters like Maggie Crist, Kaitlynn Gain and Robyn Fietz, Pipitone still shut out the Trojans. And this after holding them to one run in a 2-1 win in the season opener on March 22.
“I give myself a pep talk because (last year we) lost to them twice,” she said. “The year before that, we beat them twice. I tell myself to throw strikes and if they hit it, that’s good for them.”
Pipitone threw all seven innings and only gave up four hits and struck out four in the shutout.
“Maddie is taught to pitch to contact. We keep her on the corners, we go up and down and our catcher does an amazing job calling the game,” Walker said. “Ashley Long does it herself and she’s amazing for that. She knows what the approach is toward each batter.”
Even before the game started, Walker would rely on Long’s opinion on how she felt Pipitone was feeling and anything they need to fix.
“They are up front about everything,” Walker said. “Of course that’s important to me as a coach. If it’s not working, they will tell me and they try to do what’s best for the team.”
Long was a force at the plate as well. Going 2-for-4 on the day, she hit a double and drove in three runs for the Hornets, giving Pipitone a comfortable lead.
“I think we kept up our energy pretty well and we were able to hit,” Piptone said. “I don’t think there was an inning where we (didn’t) have girls on base. It was crucial for this game.”
Another Hornet that played well was Megan Vandergrift, the junior shortstop that was already committed to play at the University of Washington before she stepped onto White River’s field.
Vandergrift scored the first of the Hornets’ runs off an inside-the-park home run in the second inning.
“She’s awesome. When we got here, we looked at the fence and thought that the only girl that would hit a home run is Vandergrift,” Walker said. “She’s so fast. She got it in the gap and got all the way around.”
Jordan Whitford: 253-597-8680