MOREAU — Clutching the wooden Section II championship plaque under her arm after Saturday’s game, Kayla Bailey wasn’t giving up her prize easily.
The Fort Ann sophomore and her Cardinal teammates had just wrapped up their seventh consecutive Class D softball title, as she tossed a four-hit shutout in a 6-0 defeat of previously unbeaten Salem.
The Cardinals, who improved to 15-2, are scheduled to face Section VII champ Crown Point in a state quarterfinal on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Moreau Rec.
“It never gets old,” said Bailey, who struck out 12 and walked one as Fort Ann avenged an early-season loss to the Generals. “We hit a lot better and we were more confident than last time — we knew we could do it. We knew this could be our last game, we just fought it out.”
“This is the best one yet,” first baseman Taylor Foran said. “We had to work for this one a little more, and being a senior, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
“They’re a quality team — they have hitters from 1 through 9 — and we didn’t want to give it up,” senior third baseman Allison Vrooman said. “We want to keep this rolling.”
The loss put a damper on an otherwise spectacular season for Salem, which finished with a program-best 18-1 record and the Generals’ first-ever sectional finals appearance. Fort Ann took advantage of seven hits and six walks.
“Unfortunately, we gave them a few extra baserunners, and baserunners were things we couldn’t get,” Generals coach William Moore said. “A lot of those walks scored (three), and and we just could not get a timely hit just to get started.”
Bailey — who gutted out an apparent strained quadriceps while running the bases early on — helped her own cause by going 3 for 3 at the plate, with a double and three runs scored. Her third-inning double put Renee Allen, who had walked, into scoring position. Vrooman followed with a sac fly and Bailey scored on an error to give Fort Ann a 2-0 lead.
In the fifth, Bailey walked, reached third on Foran’s double and scored on Emily Jackson’s sac fly.
The Cardinals added three runs in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with two singles and a walk, and plating them on a wild pitch, Vrooman’s base hit and a groundout by Raegan Thorpe.
“The most important thing is we got ahead early, and that helped settle us down a little,” Fort Ann coach Jason Humiston said. “Salem hasn’t been behind all season and I wanted to see how they would respond.”
The Generals ran into Bailey, who was coming in red-hot off of a no-hitter in Wednesday’s semifinals, and managed only four singles and one walk. Salem’s best scoring chance came in the fourth inning, when Lauren Christensen and Jess Vidal had back-to-back base hits with one out. However, Bailey struck out the next two batters to end the uprising. Bailey had also struck out the side in the third.
“I threw a lot more inside — I’ve never really done that before, but they were crowding the plate and they just couldn’t hit it,” said Bailey, who threw 89 pitches. “My drop curve was working pretty good, and I got a couple of them on the changeup, that helped a lot.”
“She worked out of a couple jams with some of their best hitters coming up,” Humiston said. “For a sophomore she pitches way above her years.”
For Fort Ann, games were a little closer this season, but the Cardinals persevered with a younger lineup.
“We definitely had our best game this season, no doubt,” Vrooman said.
“In the past we’ve had some sluggers, we could just outmuscle people,” Humiston said. “This year, we had to really work hard and put a quality effort together. ... The last time we played, we were only outside two days, they didn’t get our best effort. Today, they saw what Fort Ann softball is all about.”
Moore expressed his pride in what the Generals were able to accomplish this season.
“I told the girls, especially my seniors, that they started this program in the right direction,” Moore said. “We’ve been doormats for 20, 30 years, and because of them, we have kids learning to play softball and we have a lot of great kids coming up. I’m hoping this is the start of a nice little dynasty.”
Class D Championship
Fort Ann (15-2) 000 000 0 — 6 7 0
Salem (18-1) 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
WP — Kayla Bailey. LP — Morgan Keys. 2B — Kayla Bailey (FA), Taylor Foran (FA).
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity and check out his blogs on poststar.com.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!