Wildcats Led 2-1 in Fifth But Lose 7-2 to Fourth-Ranked CSI
WNC’s reward for winning its first-ever postseason game was the No. 4-ranked Golden Eagles of College of Southern Idaho on their home field at the Region 18 softball tournament.
Some teams would shudder at the thought of playing a team that has won 47 of 57 games, especially after losing its tournament opener to North Idaho.
The Wildcats put themselves in position for an enormous upset, taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning behind some clutch hitting by Sydney Darby and a game pitching effort by Ali Lostra. But the Golden Eagles used two home runs in the late going to pull out a 7-2 elimination win.
“A lot of the girls in this program have been part of championships teams, and they were able to make the separation from regular season to the postseason,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth as to why her club wasn’t intimidated by the nationally ranked Golden Eagles. “We fought like crazy to keep in that game.”
Lea Hopson hit a game-tying solo homer in the fifth inning and Whitney Littledike launched a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning. Patti Ferguson added a three-run double in the pivotal sixth to give the Golden Eagles a 7-2 lead.
Winning pitcher Sierra Whitmer denied WNC any offensive spark in the seventh, setting down the Wildcats 1-2-3 to end the game.
The Wildcats finished their season with a 19-43 record.
In the fifth inning, Darby put WNC on top for the first time with a two-out double to left field, scoring Lostra, who started the rally with a one-out walk.
“Syd has swung a good bat for us all year, and she did her job today and got those runs in,” Wentworth said.
Sierra Whitmer prevented WNC from widening the lead by retiring Alisha Nielsen on a groundout to short.
The Golden Eagles quickly tied the score at 2 in the fifth when Hopson hit a one-out homer to left. Aubrey Whitmer followed with a base hit, ending Lostra’s sparkling stint on the mound.
Wentworth said the strike zone changed as the game wore on, and Lostra was no longer receiving strikes for her outside pitches.
“Her curveball was working really well,” Wentworth said. “I changed it up to see if (Carlee Beck) could work with the (strike) zone.”
Beck retired the next two hitters, sending the game into the sixth with the score knotted at 2.
WNC, which has struggled to push home runners in scoring position most of the season, missed an opportunity to score in the first inning. After Jennifer Quam led off with a single and stole second base, pitcher Sierra Whitmer retired the next three Wildcats, who each put the ball in play.
Losta, who tossed a shutout against Colorado Northwestern on Thursday, minimized the damage in the first inning after a one-out error and walk set up the Golden Eagles for a potentially big inning. Aubrey Whitmer’s base hit brought home Brooke Boggess from second base to give CSI a 1-0 lead, but Lostra stranded two runners by fanning Ferguson and Sierra Whitmer.
Lostra continued her crafty pitching by striking out Kylee Hogue and Littledike during a 1-2-3 second inning.
The Wildcats used a two-out rally to tie the score in the third inning. Like she did in the first, Quam singled and stole second base, her 50th of the season. After Sierra Whitmer walked Madison Gonzalez, Darby punched a single into left field, scoring Quam. However, WNC missed an opportunity to go ahead as Nielsen popped up, leaving Gonzalez at second base and Darby at first.
Lostra worked out of a mess in the third inning to keep the score even. An infielder error, a base hit by Hopson and walk to Aubrey Whitmer loaded the bases with one out. But Lostra fanned Ferguson and got an unusual forceout at first base by right fielder Andrea Lee on a potential go-ahead base hit by Sierra Whitmer for the third out.
In 4 1/3 innings, Lostra gave up five hits and struck out five.
Darby and Quam accounted for all four of the Wildcats’ hits. Darby was 2 for 3 with two RBI, while Quam went 2 for 4 with a run scored and two stolen bases.
“We had a lot of great solid hits, but they were hit right at people, and we had a hard time finding the holes (in their defense),” Wentworth said.
WNC will welcome back six of its eight starting position players, including the entire infield, as well as pitcher Beck.
“We’re one of the youngest teams in the conference,” Wentworth said. “We are excited with what is yet to come with this group. Our sites are set really high for next year.”
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