North Central’s late one-run lead was hanging in the balance Friday when seniors Emily Ebaugh and Malia Wash saved the day with their strong, accurate arms.
Ebaugh, NC’s catcher, threw out a runner attempting to steal second base in the sixth inning and Wash followed with two strikeouts with a runner at third base as the visiting Indians held off the Mead Panthers 5-4 in the Greater Spokane League.
NC (12-3) avenged a 3-2 loss to Mead last month and kept pressure on first-place University (13-2) in the battle for the District 8 3A tournament’s top seed. NC has won eight of its last nine games and five straight since an 11-0 setback to U-Hi. Mead (10-5) has lost five of its last seven and trails Central Valley (12-3) by two games, with three left, in the chase for District 8 4A seeding.
NC took a 5-4 lead in the fifth. Abby Nelson led off with a double that sliced away from right fielder Caitlyn Seiger. Nelson took third on Avery Smith’s sacrifice and scored just ahead of Seiger’s throw on Kiki Ortega’s sacrifice fly.
Wash had set down eight consecutive batters when Ashlynn Bocook led off the sixth with a single to center. Cleanup hitter Kylie Bremner followed with a grounder to third that handcuffed Smith, leaving runners at the corners.
With Mackenzie Kutz up, Bremner broke for second, hoping to get in a rundown that would allow Bocook to score. Instead, shortstop Lauren Hare gloved Ebaugh’s strong throw, tagged out Bremner and turned quickly to keep Bocook on third.
“That was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been throwing to second,” Ebaugh said. “I just knew I had to get it there and I trust Lauren. She’s an amazing player and she handled it perfectly.”
“(Ebaugh’s) someone who can make that throw. … We guessed, we gambled and we got it,” NC coach Rob Kuehn said.
Wash struck out Kutz and Kodee Kinder to end the threat. Wash finished with no walks and 11 strikeouts, including seven in the last four innings.
“I trust (Ebaugh) 100 percent and she calls all the pitches, so I have to trust her … and my coach,” Wash said. “Emily’s reliable and so mature in how she plays.”
Ebaugh staked NC to a 3-0 lead with a bunt single and run in the first and RBI single in the second.
Mead had four singles, including RBIs by Seiger and Bocook, to take a 4-3 lead in the third. Two runs scored when Bremner’s liner to right went off Ortega’s glove.
“I just had to rely on my team to put more runs on the board for me,” Wash said. “My technique is to clear it out of my head so it doesn’t affect me too much.”
Ebaugh scored from first on Hannah Wafstet’s single to tie the game at 4 in the fourth.
Mead coach Joel Shawen said the team is adjusting to the loss of senior shortstop Hailey Shanholtzer, who was hitting .500 when she fractured her wrist against Shadle Park on Tuesday.
“For us to succeed and be able to go further, we as coaches are going to have to get our girls to realize we’re OK,” Shawen said. “We lost a senior leader and a senior captain, but we’re still going to have to find ways to get after it.”