Casual observers probably didn’t notice when Colville junior pitcher McKenna Cabbage made her varsity debut on March 14 and lost 9-3.
Cabbage (18-1) hasn’t lost in the seven weeks since, and neither have her Indians, who will take a 19-1 record and homefield advantage into next week’s District 7 2A tournament.
The game that kept the Indians from a perfect record was a matchup of two of the area’s premier teams, no matter the classification. Colville lost to Lake City of Coeur d’Alene (19-0), a strong candidate to win the 5A state tournament in Idaho.
Colville, a Class 2A school, led the game 3-1 before outfield trouble aided the host Timberwolves’ six-run fifth.
“It was nerve-wracking starting against this crazy-good team, but I think it was a good first outing for us,” Cabbage said.
One of the secrets behind Cabbage’s improvement is her work with catcher Jammie Madonna, a senior described as a “softball junkie” by coach Jim Ebel.
“Tough, strong, and frankly a little scary,” Ebel said. “She intimidates players on her own team, so I can’t imagine what opposing players might think.”
Unlike Cabbage, whose athletic interests also include soccer and basketball, Madonna lives for softball alone. She will play for North Idaho College in the fall and has set a goal to one day transfer to Hawaii.
“I’ve loved softball (from the start),” Madonna said. “I like how intense it is, how there’s always something going on and how much of a family you have with your team.”
Cabbage’s role as future ace became apparent during her success last year with Colville’s summer league team. Over the winter, Madonna and Cabbage started practicing together in the gymnasium on Sundays, when Cabbage had a break from basketball.
“Together they’ve developed quite a rapport … and work so well you’d think they’d played together all their lives,” Ebel said.
Cabbage, who mainly played first base last season, has dabbled in pitching since the sixth grade.
“I’ve worked a lot on my change-up,” said Cabbage, whose earned-run average in league games is less than 1.00. “I’m just now introducing a curveball into my repertoire. I’ve always been an up-and-in pitcher.”
Madonna, hitting third in the lineup, is batting around .480 with 10 homers and more than 25 RBIs.
“Probably one of the quickest bats I’ve ever seen,” Ebel said. “You cannot sneak a fastball past her.”
Cabbage hits cleanup but claims she’s not sure why. She had five hits, including two doubles, during a recent sweep over Pullman, keeping her average around .550.
Both girls moved to Colville as youngsters. Madonna’s family moved from Sierra Vista, Ariz., when she was in second grade. Cabbage’s family came from Prosser, Wash., when she was in fourth grade.
Cabbage also had an interest in track and field, but she thought she had a better future in softball. Her brother Ethan placed second in the long jump and third in the triple jump at last year’s state meet.
Madonna’s freshman sister, Alyssa, plays shortstop for Colville’s junior varsity. Madonna is grooming sophomore Kayla Howes as the Indians’ catcher of the future.
Ebel said Madonna’s the right person to teach younger players, given her softball IQ. In one Indians game, Madonna called timeout for a conference on the mound while Ebel stayed in the dugout. On the next pitch, Madonna threw to Colville’s shortstop, who tagged out an unsuspecting runner at second base.
“Yeah, I called that,” Ebel joked.