MONTESANO — When combined with superb pitching and defense, Montesano’s small-ball tactics worked just fine in an Evergreen 1A League softball showdown.
Madison Didion and Staci Schneider shut down Hoquiam’s potent attack as the Bulldogs swept the Grizzlies, 2-1 and 4-0, in a league doubleheader Monday at Montesano High School’s Hyde Field.
The victories vaulted the Bulldogs (6-0, 8-3) into a two-game lead over the Grizzlies (4-2, 8-3) in the league race.
Changing speeds magnificently, Didion pitched a five-hitter, walked only one and struck out eight in the opening game. The hard-throwing Schneider also tossed a five-hitter with nary a walk (although she did hit one batter) in the nightcap.
This came against a Hoquiam team that had averaged more than 16 runs per game in sweeps of Elma and Rochester, the league’s other two first-division teams.
Both pitchers were aided by errorless defense, with shortstop Megan Choate and third baseman Makenzi Howard providing a particularly rock-solid left side of the infield.
“What it came down to was they defended us better than we defended them,” Hoquiam coach Keith Reynvaan said. “You have to give credit to their pitchers and their defense, they did a nice job.”
“For this early in the season, our defense is really fine-tuned,” Monte coach Pat Pace agreed. “And our pitchers are doing a great job of hitting their points.”
The Bulldogs collected only two RBIs on the day — freshaman Alyssa Gustafson’s two-run single in the second game — and went more than 13 innings before delivering their first extra-base hit. They used a combination of bunts, slaps and speed to advance their runners.
Bulldogs 2, Grizzlies 1
Montesano took the opening game despite hitting just three balls out of the infield against Hoquiam pitcher Bailee Bradley. Two of those were caught and the third, Schneider’s first-inning single, didn’t figure in the scoring.
Both Bulldog runs came in the third inning. Howard beat out a slap hit to shortstop and Pua Cavanah bunted safely past the circle.
Howard stole third and continued home on an overthrow. Cavanah eventually came in on a wild pitch.
Hoquiam slugger Kayla Hilliard finally found a way to stymie a Montesano outfield corps that was playing her so deep that their backs were nearly touching the mesh outfield fence. She cleared the right-field barrier with a solo shot in the sixth that cut the deficit to 2-1.
After Bradley pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out predicament in Monte’s half of the sixth, the Grizzlies put the potential tying run aboard via Brandi Creviston’s one-out single in the seventh.
Didion, however, retired Hannah Hliboki on a fly to Lydnsy Quinn in deep left field and Arielle Burnett on a pop fly handled by Choate.
Bulldogs 4, Grizzlies 0
Schneider stranded five Hoquiam runners — four of them in scoring position — in the first four innings. Although dealing with a wet ball during a light rain in the late innings, the senior right-hander got stronger as the game progressed. She retired the final seven batters and 11 of the last 12.
The Bulldogs manufactured a first-inning run off Grizzly starter Hliboki when Howard led off with a single, advanced to third on Cavanah’s sacrifice and Schneider’s fly to deep center and scored on a wild pitch.
It remained 1-0 until Gustafson’s two-out single in the fifth drove in Kasie Kloempken and Howard.
Kloempken’s leadoff double in the seventh inning (the Bulldogs were the visiting team in the second game) led to an insurance run in the seventh when pinch-runner Cheyann Bartlett came in from third when the throw went to first base on Cavanah’s grounder.
Although lamenting his team’s inability of capitalize on its scoring chances, Reynvaan said his team generally played well otherwise. He was particularly encouraged by the pitching of Bradley and Hliboki.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to visit Tenino for a doubleheader Thursday. The Grizzlies are idle until May 1, when they are slated to host Rainier.
Hoquiam 000 001 0 — 1 5 3 Montesano 002 000 x — 2 4 0
Bradley and Burnett; Didion and Kloempken.
RBI: Hoquiam — Hilliard. Home runs: Hoquiam — Hilliard.
Winning pitcher — Didion (walked one; struck out eight). Losing pitcher — Bradley (walked four; struck out six).
Montesano 100 020 1 — 4 7 0 Hoquiam 000 000 0 — 0 5 2
Schneider and Kloempken; Hliboki and Stewart.
RBI: Montesano — Gustafson 2. Two hits: Montesano — Howard, Kloempken. Hoquiam — Quercia. Doubles: Montesano — Kloempken.
Winning pitcher — Schneider (walked none; struck out four). Losing pitcher — Hliboki (walked one; struck out one).