Fastpitch: Wildcats hold own in 1-0 loss to powerful Stanwood

Oak Harbor went toe-to-toe with fastpitch power Stanwood, only to fall 1-0 in extra innings on the road Wednesday, April 7.

On paper the game looked like a mismatch. The Wildcats, winless in two Wesco North games and 1-3 on the year, were up against the 6-1 Spartans and the league's top pitcher, Brittany Jeans.

Jeans, who struck out 230 batters last year on the way to earning all-Wesco honors, whiffed a career high 20 Wildcats and gave up just one hit in the nine-inning game.

She also played a key role in the game's only run.

The Spartans' Sam Bingham led off the ninth with a double, which was Stanwood's only hit of the game. Bingham then stole third. Jeans came to the plate and scored Bingham on a fielder's choice as Bingham was safe on an error at the plate.

Other than the error at the end, Oak Harbor played stellar defense behind pitchers Whitney Osborn, who threw the first three innings, and Emily Hunt. The pair matched Jeans' string of zeros on the score board until the ninth. Together they recorded two strike outs and three walks.

Coach Jessica Weikle said, "Our pitchers did their job; they allowed their fielders to make plays for them. With only two strikeouts in nine innings, it is clear that Stanwood put the ball in play, but our fielding was practically perfect."

Weikle was forced to play two regular outfielders in the infield for the first three innings because some of her players missed practices during spring break. Center fielder Aria Araceley took over a short stop and turned in a diving double play to highlight the team's defensive effort.

Araceley returned to the outfield in the fourth and, according to Weikle, "had a great day tracking down two hard, deep pop flies that could have easily turned into big hits for Stanwood."

Weikle added, "Brittany (Johnstson) also had a big day at third base with six putouts."

Oak Harbor had two excellent chances to score but could not get to Jeans. In the fourth Araceley led off with a bunt and reached second when the throw on the play was mishandled at first. She moved to third on a ground out by Emily Meagher, but Jeans fanned the next two Wildcats to end the threat.

Johnston started the ninth with a walk. She stole second as the next Oak Harbor hitter struck out. Johnston advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Jeans again mowed down the final two hitters to hold the shut out.

Weikle was upbeat after the loss: "Overall, as a team, we had a great day. As a coaching staff we were impressed with our captains’ leadership, the collective camaraderie of the team and our unwillingness to give up. We are getting better each game and yesterday was the best game we have played yet. It was an awesome day."

The Wildcats play Lake Stevens (0-3, 1-6) Friday, April 9, at Hillcrest Elementary at 4 p.m.

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