White River’s Kayla Smith uses screwballs and change-ups. Fife’s Anna Kasner throws more riseballs and dropballs.
Both were scintillating Thursday.
Smith struck out 14 batters in nine innings, Kasner countered with 10 strikeouts in nine innings. But Smith earned the victory when a pitch got away from Kasner in the bottom of the ninth and White River freshman Maddi Pipitone slid into home plate safely to lift the Hornets to a 2-1 home victory.
White River (14-1 overall, 12-0 2A SPSL) clinched at least a share of the 2A South Puget Sound League title with the win over the defending champion Trojans (8-6, 8-3).
“Less than 30 days ago we lost 6-0 to White River, and in just a few short weeks we do this. I can’t complain,” Fife coach Michelle Nixon said. “We played a great game and I expect to see big things from us in the coming weeks.”
This one could have easily gone the other way.
The ninth inning initiates the international tiebreaker rule, putting a runner at second base. For Fife in the top half of the ninth, that runner was Kasner.
She reached third base on a wild pitch then broke for home on a ground ball to second. White River’s Megan Vandegrift threw to the plate and Kasner was called out on a close play that would have given Fife a 2-1 advantage.
“My assistant saw a better view of it than I did, but I did not agree with it,” Nixon said of the out call. “But we don’t get anything for free. We got to work for it.”
Fife loaded the bases later in the inning, but Smith got Maggie Crist to ground out to third.
White River coach Brandon Walker was loving every second of extra innings. He was smiling as he walked past his team’s dugout toward first base, “Let’s stay here longer, right? Yeah?”
“Oh man, we got out of that bases-loaded ninth, they came in and they were like, ‘We’re winning it now,’ ” Walker said of his team. “As soon as they got out of that situation, we felt pretty good.”
Sure enough, Pipitone started at second, reached third on Maddie Meyer’s sacrifice bunt and safely slid home when Kasner’s pitch went behind batter Erin Redford’s legs to the backstop.
“It was a big win for us,” Smith said. “We’ve always kind of had a little rivalry with Fife. It was good to win.”
And good to beat Kasner, who has been a teammate of Smith on their select team, the Washington Acers, since they were 12. Smith is committed to Central Washington University and Kasner to Western Washington.
“Kayla was tough and Anna was just as tough,” Nixon said. “This was a great game. We fought all the way to the end.”