According to Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s beloved character in the film “Bull Durham,” “Strikeouts are boring.” But Lewis and Clark’s Kylie Pester is challenging that notion with each start she makes this season.
The junior pitcher strikes out nearly one of every two batters she faces and averages more than 11 per appearance in Greater Spokane League play. Her 159 strikeouts this season lead the league and are nearly twice as many anyone else.
Pester’s fastball consistently hits 58 mph on the radar gun, occasionally rising to 60 – which is comparable to a 90-mph pitch in baseball. But she focuses primarily on hitting her spots and perfecting her spins on the balls, throwing a nasty screwball that breaks in on right-handed hitters and a change-up that is about 15 mph slower than her fastball.
“Without Kylie we’re just an average team,” coach Paul Neff said. “We may not even make the playoffs. She makes most of our outs.”
But the 2018 first-team all-league selection does more than keep opposing batters off the basepaths and teams off the scoreboard. Pester is also menacing at the plate, ranking among the league leaders with five home runs and 19 RBIs.
Her ability to dominate a game from the circle and the batter’s box have helped LC to the District 8 4A tournament. The Tigers went into the final game of the regular season tied with Mead and beat the Panthers 2-1 to earn the No. 3 seed, with Mead taking the fourth and final spot. Pester allowed one run and three hits with 13 strikeouts and no walks in the victory.
Despite the fact Lewis and Clark (8-7, 8-6 GSL) lost twice to GSL No. 1 seed Central Valley early in the season and dropped a pair of 3-2 decisions to No. 2 University, defensive improvements and confidence at the plate have the Tigers eager for the postseason. They committed 14 errors in their first two games, matching their errors in the final 13 games combined. LC had just one error over the final three games of the regular season.
That trend, Pester hopes, will continue as the Tigers travel to Pasco to take on Chiawana, the No. 2 seed from the Mid-Columbia Conference.
“The MCC is a whole different level,” Pester said. “But I think the GSL has really prepared me because there is not just some ‘gimme’ win. You really have to work to get wins (in the GSL), so I have a lot of confidence (heading into districts).”
And with good reason.
It’s tough to score when you consistently strike out – boring as that may be.
Fourth-seeded Mead (13-8) was the only 4A team to pick up a win in the first round on Saturday, knocking off fifth-seeded Chiawana 5-2 behind Dayton Wells’ complete game. It earned the Panthers a meeting with top-seeded Richland (13-8) in a semifinal Tuesday.
Second-seeded Central Valley (18-3) hosts sixth-seeded Ferris (11-10) in a loser-out game, while No. 8 seed Gonzaga Prep (11-10) travels to fifth-seeded Chiawana (9-10) in an elimination game.
In 3A, second-seeded Mt. Spokane (19-1) faces Kamiakin (10-2) in the district title game at LaPierre Field in Kennewick. Shadle Park travels to Southridge and North Central plays at Kennewick in loser-out games.
Pullman hosts the 2A championship series. Second-seeded Cheney plays West Valley in an elimination game, then the winner battles the regular-season champ Greyhounds for the district title. The first and second teams advance to crossover games on Saturday.
The 1A first- and third-place games are at Avista Stadium. Top-seeded Colville takes on Freeman in the title game while Deer Park faces Riverside for third. The champ advances to state, while second and third move on to crossovers on Saturday.