Thursday afternoon’s setting was all too familiar.
The four-time regular-season champion University Titans again played host to their Greater Spokane League rivals – the Central Valley Bears – in the Greater Spokane League slowpitch softball title game.
But this time there was a different ending to the story as the Bears came up with timely hits and held off a late rally in a 6-1 victory over the three-time defending champion Titans (15-3).
“To have it be our crosstown rival always makes it that much more fun,” CV coach Joe Stanton said. “Every year it’s been a close game, and this year the ball bounced our way. We played a tough U-Hi team.”
The Bears (14-4) only outhit the Titans 13-10, but the timeliness of their hits made the difference.
McKenzie Shea finished with three hits, including a triple, and Miranda Marlatt, Becky White and Sydney Salzman each finished with a pair of hits for CV. Marlatt also tripled and scored two runs.
“We were able to get the hits when we needed them,” Stanton said. “We had the triples with girls on (base), and we were just able to string some hits together that really gave us an advantage.”
The Titans looked as if they were going to manufacture some runs in the bottom of the sixth, but with two outs and runners on first and second, Titans coach Jon Schuh signaled for Richael Paxson to round third and head home – where she was tagged out at the plate by Salzman.
“I probably shouldn’t have sent her home right there, but we needed to get something going and I thought that would give us a spark – something to build on,” Schuh said. “Hindsight is 20-20, though. We did finally start to play and have the atmosphere we typically have in the seventh.”
But at that point it was too late.
With one out, Morgan Voelker, Devynne Johnson and Sandra Cleveland, respectively, loaded the bases with three straight singles for U-Hi.
Voelker scored on Bree Baslington’s fielder’s choice on the next at-bat, and with two outs Sara Bowden loaded the bases again with a single to center field. But the Titans’ momentum ended abruptly with a routine grounder to White at shortstop, whose throw to first base barely beat Andrea Fitzsimmons.
“Of course, the girls were disappointed with the loss, but I told them if losing a softball game is the worst thing that happens in their lifetime they’ve got it pretty good,” Schuh said. “We’ve played them (three) times this season and even though it didn’t go our way, I do think the two best teams played the game today.”