Lady Blackhawks shutout Clarkston in playoff opener
Last updated 5/16/2019 at 2:54pm
For Cheney High School softball head coach Gary Blake — and many of his spring sports counterparts — “prom” is a four-letter word.
The annual spring social function creates a myriad of distractions in most teenagers minds, and in Blake’s experience, his Lady Blackhawks have never played very well the night before the big dance. The latter gave Cheney’s veteran softball coach some added trepidation in that this year’s high school event was moved from late April to early May, coinciding with the start of the Great Northern League playoffs — which in the Lady Blackhawks case meant hosting last-place Clarkston last Friday afternoon.
Blake’s worst fears were never realized as Cheney played one of its better games this season in whitewashing the visiting Bantams 11-0 in five innings. The Lady Blackhawks got a three-hit, shutout performance from sophomore ace Alexis Mitchell, who allowed no free passes to Clarkston hitters while striking out eight, throwing 49 strikes over 66 pitches that amounted to an almost three strikes to one ball ratio.
“That’s something she doesn’t usually do, but she did it in spades this game,” Blake said.
Cheney scored two runs in the bottom of the first — all they would really need as it turned out — but blew things open in a five-run second. The Lady Blackhawks manufactured runs in just about every way imaginable, with Mitchell starting things with a leadoff walk and coming around to score off a Clarkston error on Lindsay Hagreen’s single.
Kyla Olson, who reached base on an error, scored on Parker Cagle’s bunt, with Jasmine Rison singling home Hagreen. Maria Guglielmo’s sacrifice fly brought in Olson, with Logan Krantz’s ground out to second scoring Rison as Blake said his team exhibited “good aggressive base running” in the inning.
Cheney added two runs in both the third and fourth innings for good measure. Hagreen was 2 for 3 to lead Cheney at the plate, with Rison going 2 for 2 with two RBIs.
“They were totally focused that day,” Blake said of his team’s performance prior to prom.
The Lady Blackhawks wrapped up their regular season last Tuesday with a 7-4 loss to Northeast A League Deer Park. Blake started all six of his seniors on Senior Day, and Cheney held it’s ground well against a 15-7 Stags team that finished second in the NEA, leading 3-2 at one point and trailing 5-4 before Deer Park put up two runs in the sixth to stay just out of reach.
Guglielmo was 3 for 4 at the plate in her final Cheney regular-season game while Krantz was 2 for 3 with an RBI. Isabella King took the loss in the pitching circle, giving up four runs on seven hits, one walk and striking out three in three and a third innings of work. Mitchell closed out the game, giving up three runs on two hits while walking two, hitting two batters and striking out four.
Blake felt his team played well against the Stags, surrendering just two errors on defense but giving up a few more free passes to Deer Park hitters. Cheney managed seven hits, all singles except for Krantz’s RBI triple.
“Pitching and defense is what carries you, hitting comes and goes,” Blake said. “If you can score four to five (runs a game), you really should win.”
Cheney’s win over Clarkston gives them a 9-10 overall record and a District 7 playoff semifinal matchup on Tuesday (May 14) against third-seed East Valley (9-9) at West Valley High School. The winner moved on to the regional seeding game against the regular-season champion Eagles (15-1).
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.