PASCO — Even though the Wenatchee Valley College softball team led 4-0 in the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader against Columbia Basin, Knights left fielder Kirstie Thomas absolutely wasn’t going to let a deep fly ball get over her head.
Thomas made a spectacular running catch to end the game, a 4-0 WVC win, but crashed head-first into the wall and suffered injuries to her face. She wasn’t able to make her usual appearance in circle in the nightcap, but WVC still posted a 7-4 win to reduce its magic number to clinch its eighth consecutive Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges East Region championship to one.
“It was a scary play,” said Knights coach Shelly Pflugrath. “It was one of the best catches that I’ve ever seen, though. (Thomas) was in a dead sprint and laid out and caught the ball over her head and held on and had a major collision with the fence. Ahead 4-0 with two outs in the seventh, she could’ve let the ball get over her head, but she didn’t. That’s how hard she plays. (All of my players) have only one gear, but especially her.”
Hailey Bator allowed just four hits and struck out seven in the first game and added four hits, including two doubles.
In the second game, Julia Rambo started in the circle in place of Thomas (her first start against an East Region opponent) and allowed five hits while striking out four. Riliey Cullip continued her torrid hitting with a home run to key the Knights’ eight-hit attack.
“It was a tough day,” Pflugrath said. “It was really windy. I felt that we hit five balls that would’ve been homers that were held up in the wind. We put some good swings on the ball. Anytime you go on the road and win four games (the Knights swept Walla Walla on Friday) against two teams battling for the postseason, that’s a good weekend. We faced some tough conditions, so it was hard to tell just how well we played (Saturday).”
WVC (34-3, 21-2 East Region) will play host to Treasure Valley (the only team East Region team to beat the Knights this season) on Friday with a chance to clinch the region championship.
“We talk all the time about the ability to stay together through a 45-plus game season. It’s a challenge,” Pflugrath said. “The kids have continued to play for each other and embrace (the challenge). I’m proud every day that I get to coach them.”
WVC 10-6, Treasure Valley 0-3
Treasure Valley has spent the entire season on top of the East Region standings. WVC entered its Saturday doubleheader with the visiting Chukars in sixth place, looking to find a way to move up into fourth and clinch a postseason spot by the end of the season.
That’s why the Knights’ two victories could potentially define their season.
WVC (15-17, 10-10) received stellar pitching performances from Lars Rider in the first game and Mitch Yada in the nightcap. Rider allowed three hits and struck out four in six innings, and Yada gave up eight hits and struck out five in six innings.
The pitchers received offensive support from Justin Berneski (four hits in the first game), Kyler Blades (two hits in the opener, three in the nightcap) and the Knights’ catchers (Josh Brewer had a triple in the first game and scored three times, and Kevin Duncan added a pair of hits in the second contest).
The Knights are two games back of fourth-place Spokane in the East Region standings.