May 16, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 4

Season, Higgins' coaching stint ends for Medical Lake softball

The softball season, and the latest stint for head coach John Higgins ended for Medical Lake last Saturday in Suncrest.

After a thrilling 14-13 win in 12 innings over Chewelah last Tuesday that got them into the postseason, a pair of losses in the Northeast A League’s district tournament ousted the Cardinals.

Medical Lake lost its opener 11-5 to regular season champion Lakeside and then 13-9 to Riverside in the loser-out contest, finishing 9-14 on the season. Saturday’s game was the final one in Higgins’ second stint at ML’s softball coach as he’s retiring.

“That’ over 20 years, that’s long enough,” Higgins said. “I’ve got grandkids playing all kinds of sports.”

Higgins, who doubles as Medical Lake’s mayor, not only leaves behind a program in better shape than when he took over but has a summer league that now enters its third season with a healthy group of teams. West Plains Little League is also part of the pipeline, he said.

Assistant coach Tim Blakely will run the summer team, Higgins said.

The Cardinals closed out 2013 in much the same up and down manner that seemed to frame the season. Especially in the Kettle Falls game last Tuesday.

“We spotted them a big lead,” Higgins said as Medical Lake trailed 8-2 through the top of the third. The Cardinals would battle back and tied it with two runs in the bottom of the seventh at 9-9.

That set up what Higgins referred to as the “Texas Tiebreaker,” where a runner is put at second upping the chances of scoring to end the game.

The teams each scored single runs in the ninth and eleventh with that Cardinals’ defense showing up in extra innings and collecting a pair of first-to-third double plays.

“We won it with a squeeze play with the bases loaded and two outs, “ Higgins explained. “I was out of players, he was out of players and didn’t want to play much longer so I tried a squeeze play and it was bunted right back to the pitcher.”

The Chewelah pitcher misplayed it and by the time she recovered Darby Evans scored to help advance her team to Saturday’s round. “It was close but our girl slid underneath the tag,” Higgins said.

Faith Keister had four hits, including a double in the Kettle Falls win. Becky Troutt’s three hits included a pair of doubles. Shelby Pavao got the win to go 2-1 on the season.

In their opener Saturday, the Cardinals spotted Lakside an early lead, trailing 4-0 through three before closing to 4-3 in the fourth. But the Eagles were too much, scoring four in their half of the inning and the Cardinals were never able to fully close the gap. Hailey Cheevers had three hits against Lakeside. Troutt and Pavao each doubled.

Lakeside’s Madi Naccarato was robbed of a home run by Rachael Crofoot who made an over-the-fence catch.

Kettle Falls’ 7-4 upset win over Riverside in the other game sent the Rams into a must-win match-up versus Medical Lake.

Riverside led 4-0 after one but Medical Lake battled back to take a 9-6 lead with a four-run fourth. “We gave it back up on a couple of plays on the infield,” Higgins explained. “We didn’t make plays we should have, a pop-fly on the infield, we didn’t cover that, and then they got a couple of hits and we didn’t.”

Troutt concluded her ML career with a 3-hit afternoon versus Riverside. Evans, Keister and freshman Bradyn Wegner each had a double. Evans also hit a triple.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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