Cabbage, Wittmeyer lead
BY CHRIS COWBROUGH
S-E Sports Editor
Defending Great Northern League and District 7 2A softball champion Colville High got the 2014 softball season off to a fast start last week with three wins.
Playing in weather conditions more reminiscent of a winter that doesn’t seem to want to exit stage left until next November, the Indians came from behind to post a dramatic 5-4 win over Northwest Christian in the season opener for both teams last Thursday at frigid Vaagen Park.
On Saturday, back at Vaagen Park, Colville swept a pivotal Great Northern League doubleheader from Deer Park, 11-5, 9-1.
The second game didn’t end until about 7 p.m. under the lights of Vaagen Park.
While it wasn’t as rigorous as opening the season against Lake City last spring, last Thursday afternoon’s season opener against Northwest Christian gave the Indians a test that would serve them well two days later against a Deer Park team that went 18-6 last season and finished second in the GNL behind Colville.
“That was a great way to get the season started,” CHS head coach Jim Ebel said of facing a NWC team that could conceivably win a 2B state championship later this spring. The Crusaders certainly have all the components necessary to make a title run.
“NWC is a quality team with a good senior pitcher (Hustad)…it was just what we needed to get ready for Deer Park and their hard-throwing pitcher (Sweeney).”
Both pitchers started off a little shaky. Part of that was because of some defense that was less than scintillating early.
NWC struck for two runs in the top of the first inning with a two-run home run over the centerfield fence that was aided by an error on CHS third baseman Emily Poling that extended the inning.
Colville got even in the bottom of the first when catcher Kayla Howes and Poling drilled RBI singles.
Lead-off hitter Jessi Wittmeyer doubled to lead off the inning.
Colville added a run in the bottom of the second on an RBI double by Wittmeyer, who plated first baseman McKenna Iverson (single).
After striking out the side in the second, CHS pitcher McKenna Cabbage, who fanned 16 in the game, walked the Crusaders’ leadoff hitter with two outs in the third. Then, on a 2-2 count, clean-up hitter Hustad blasted a hanging curve over the centerfield fence for two more runs and a 4-3 lead.
“Chalk that one up to coach and catcher miscommunication,” Ebel said of a pitch pitcher and coach would like to have back. “I wanted a change-up and Kayla (catcher Howes) saw curve.”
With a new catcher this spring, there is still a learning curve with the pitch calling.
“We’re still in the learning process with the pitch calling,” Ebel acknowledged. “It’s just a matter of doing it more and getting familiar with it. Sometimes I’ll signal it wrong, but most of the time McKenna makes it work.”
Colville plated another run in the third when Poling singled home Cabbage.
After that, both Hustad and Cabbage got their pitching grooves on and settled in. From the fourth inning on, Cabbage only allowed one hit. Hustad surrendered three.
Matters got a little dramatic in the NWC seventh. With the scored knotted at 4-4, Cabbage was able to wriggle out of a jam with runners at the corners and two out. Cabbage fanned Gray on three pitches.
In the Colville half of the seventh, the hot-hitting Wittmeyer led off with a sharp single off the glove of the diving NWC shortstop. The senior stole second and scored easily on Cabbage’s two-out bloop single to rightfield.
Colville managed 10 hits off a quality pitcher and committed a pair of errors.
“Overall, I was excited to see how well we hit the ball,” Ebel said of his predominantly veteran line-up. “Hitting was a concern coming into the season. But we have to cut down on our strikeouts (nine for the game).
“Most of that was swinging under high rise balls or getting fooled on change-ups.”
DEER PARK RECAP
The Stags figure to be one of Colville’s 2-0, 3-0) toughest rivals this spring. But on a cold Saturday at Vaagen Park, one that finished under the lights at about 7 p.m., Colville dominated, winning 11-5, 9-1.
Colville continued its solid work at the plate, pounding DP pitching for 22 hits.
In the opener, the Indians jumped on DP with four runs in the bottom of the first. Wittmeyer led off with a triple. That was followed by singles off the bats of Howes, Cabbage and second baseman Hannah Smith, and a groundout off the bat of leftfielder Miranda Tostenson.
In the third inning, Cabbage ran into some control issues. A single, sandwiched between a pair of walks brought up pitcher Sweeney, who turned on a high fastball and drilled a Grand Slam to give the Stags a 5-4 lead.
Ebel figured that his pitcher was having trouble getting a good grip on the ball because of the unseasonably cold weather.
Cabbage got a grip the rest of the way and didn’t surrender another run after the third inning.
Meanwhile, Colville continued to put pressure on Sweeney and her defense.
Colville bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead for good. Cabbage doubled, Poling singled and Smith plated both with a single of her own.
Rightfielder Chantel Nussbaum, back on the softball team after a year playing tennis, picked up an RBI with a ground-out that scored Smith.
With the score 7-5, shortstop Baylee Main hit a hard comebacker to Sweeney in the circle. While trying to corral the throw from Sweeney, the DP first baseman badly injured a knee on the play.
The game was delayed for an hour as emergency responders tended to the injured player.
The inning ended on a great backhand stab by Deer Park’s shortstop, who was able to throw out the speedy Wittmeyer at first base.
Colville blew the game open with three more runs in the fourth inning. Tostenson led off with a double. A dropped fly ball in left field put runners on second and third. An RBI groundout by Cabbage, an RBI triple by Smith (four hits in the game) and an RBI single by Iverson put Colville safely ahead.
Colville added an insurance run in the fifth when Wittmeyer sent an 0-2 pitch from Sweeney over the right-field fence.
Ebel was impressed with that particular Wittmeyer at bat and the home run from one of the physically smallest players on the field.
“That was impressive. When you can stay back on an 0-2 count and hit one out going opposite field…that was a textbook at bat.”
Smith’s first game included those four hits, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Cabbage, after some early struggles, settled in to pitch no-hit ball from the fourth inning on. The lanky right-hander struck out 14. She walked nine and gave up five earned runs.
Unlike game one, there was no drama associated with the 9-1 second game win.
Colville took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning on an error, a walk, an RBI single off the bat of Poling and some run scoring groundouts. CHS plated three more in the second inning. The inning got started with another DP error, followed by Wittmeyer’s RBI double and RBI singles from Tostenson and Cabbage.
Cabbage cruised along with a big lead, throwing no-hit ball through three innings.
DP plated its only run in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly.
That inning ended when Wittmeyer robbed Sweeney of a home run with a great catch at the right-centerfield fence. The senior’s momentum flipped her over the fence, but she hung on.
“That was a true ESPN moment,” Ebel said of the great defensive play.
In the Colville fourth, Wittmeyer doubled with one out and was tripled home by Howes. The Colville catcher came home on Cabbage’s RBI single.
The Indians scored for the final time in the sixth inning when Cabbage led off with a single and was plated on freshman Sydney Erdman’s first varsity hit.
Promising freshman pitcher Gracie Schauls saw her first varsity action, surrendering a hit and striking out the side in the fifth inning.
Cabbage finished the sixth and seventh, but tired in her first doubleheader of the season.
Cabbage struck out nine and issued four walks. She scattered two hits.
Colville will host West Valley in a single GNL game on Tuesday at Vaagen Park. Game time is 4 p.m. against the Eagles, who swept Pullman in a GNL twinbill on Saturday, 10-0, 13-2.
Colville will travel to Clarkston on Saturday for a doubleheader with the Bantams. The first game starts at noon.
Colville 11-9, DP 5-1
DPH 104 000 0— 5 3 4
CHS 403 310 x—11 12 0
Sweeney & Thomas. Cabbage & Howes. AW—Cabbage. L—Sweeney.
HITS: DP—Durgeloh 2, Sweeney. Colville—Wittmeyer 2, Tostenson, Howes, Cabbage 2, Smith 4, Iverson, Main. 2B—Durgeloh, Cabbage, Main. 3B—Wittmeyer, Tostenson, Smith. HR—Wittmeyer, Sweeney.
DPH 000 100 0—1 3 2
CHS 330 201 x—9 10 0
Sweeney & Durgeloh. Cabbage & Howes. W—Cabbage (3-0). L—Sweeney.
Hits: Deer Park—Hughes, Durgeloh, English. Colville—Wittmeyer 2, Tostenson, Howes, Cabbage 3, Poling, Erdman, Nussbaum. 2B—Wittmeyer (2). 3B—Howes.