Peninsula High third baseman Alyssa Mernone approached the pitcher’s circle with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Her pitcher, Kirstin Ritchie, was in a jam: runners on second and third base in a 6-4 game Friday morning in the opening round of the Class 3A West Central/Southwest District softball tournament at Sprinker Recreation Center.
One strike away from escaping the inning, Ritchie pitched to Shelton’s Taylor Rasler, who sent the ball whistling to Mernone. Mernone fielded it cleanly and threw to first base, barely beating the runner and getting out of the inning. No additional runs were scored for either team, allowing Peninsula (9-11) to hold on for the victory despite some shaky defense earlier in the game.
“We just talked about the situation with the people on base and how we could pull through,” Ritchie said. “It was all strategy.”
Ritchie, a sophomore, pitched a complete game, striking out three batters while allowing only one earned run. The Seahawks conceded three runs off errors. In the bottom of the fourth, Shelton’s Taylor Hitsman grounded into a fielder’s choice, driving in a run from third base.
Peninsula allowed an additional run to score, however, when the ball was thrown past third base into foul territory, bringing the score to 5-2.
The Seahawks did most of their damage early on offense, scoring five runs on five hits in the top of the first, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.
Shelton added two runs in the bottom of the fifth off another Peninsula error. As catcher Lindsey Corey attempted to steal third, another errant throw sent the ball deep into foul territory, allowing two Highclimbers to scamper home.
Despite the costly errors, Peninsula was able to hang on for the victory as Ritchie retired her last seven batters faced.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with out there,” Peninsula coach Melissa Miller said. “She’s great, and she’s only a sophomore.”
Pegged as heavy favorites, Shelton (17-5) entered the game with the second most wins in Narrows 3A.
Shelton’s record says the Highclimbers are the better team. Friday morning’s game said otherwise.
“We didn’t focus on Shelton, we just focused on getting better,” Miller said. “They were ranked a lot higher than us but if you look at who we played compared to who they played, we’re in a really tough league. If we played the teams they played, our record might look like their’s, too.”
Peninsula lost its next game to Prairie, 9-2. Because of rain delays and cancellations, the Seahawks resumed play on Monday (May 23) at Sprinker. Peninsula was eliminated Monday morning with a 5-4 loss to league rival Auburn Riverside.