WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Panther fastpitch softball team trounced Eisenhower 15-3 as they opened the district playoffs on Tuesday. The game ended in the bottom of the fifth, shortened due to the 10-run mercy rule, by a Kalista Strickland 3-run homer.

It capped not only a great game by the Panthers but also an incredible game for the senior Strickland. She finished 3-for-4 with a home run and 8 RBI.

“You couldn’t end a game any more exciting,” said Wenatchee Head Coach Greg Russ. “We scored in every inning. That is something we’ve been working on a daily. It pays off for us.

Senior Mikayla Michael was in the circle for Wenatchee while junior Sydney Turner was in the circle for the Cadets.

Wenatchee jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Junior Kristen Sanford singled and scored on the RBI groundout by Olivia Ramirez. Missy Bennett and Beth Chvilicek both singled and scored on the Strickland RBI single.

Eisenhower scored their first run in the second inning on a walk, double and single, but Michael worked out of trouble with strikeout and groundout. That cut the lead to 3-1.

In the bottom of the second, the Panthers tacked on four more runs on three errors, a hit batter, and one walk. Bennett and Chvilicek each had RBI singles. Strickland had a 2-run single.

Wenatchee now led 7-1.

The Cadets rallied for two runs in the top of the third as sophomore Kassady Alcazar hit a 2-run homer. Once again, Michael worked out of trouble inducing an infield pop up and fly ball to center to end the inning. That cut the lead to 7-3.

Another run came in for Wenatchee in the bottom of the third. Sandford walked, stole second, then advanced to third on the overthrow. She scored on the Ramirez RBI single. Wenatchee now led 8-3.

Michael worked around a bunt single in the top of fourth to leave the game at 8-3. In the bottom of the frame, the Panthers scored four more times on 2 doubles, a single, walk and error. Strickland had an RBI sac fly. Junior Mady Peters had a 2-run double. Sanford had an RBI single.

Wenatchee led 12-3.

Michael pitched a scoreless top of the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Chvilicek and Ashley Simmons each singled with one out. Strickland blasted a 3-run bomb to end the game. The Panthers won 15-3.

Wenatchee and Eisenhower had played three times during the season with the Panthers winning two of three, but of course, the stakes were higher in the district play-in game.

“They beat us once. We came in knowing this was one and done. Today we took care of business,” Russ said.

Wenatchee out-hit Eisenhower 12-9. The Cadets had 5 errors, while the Panthers had none. Russ said it all goes back to preaching the fundamentals to the girls.

“It’s going back to working on fundamentals. We preach that on a daily basis. Ball first, know where you’re going and good throws,” he said.

Michael pitched 5 innings, giving up 3 earned runs on 9 hits with 2 strikeouts and 1 walk. Turner pitched 5 innings, giving up 7 earned runs on 12 hits with 2 strikeouts, 2 walks, and a hit batter.

Russ was pleased the pitching performance by his senior.

“She was really solid for us like she has been all season. She gives it everything she’s got,” he said.

In addition to the steller game by Strickland, Chvilicek went 4-for-4 with 3 runs, 2B and an RBI.

With the victory, the Panthers are the number four seed. They move on to play the number one seed, Moses Lake, which was the regular season champion in the Big 9. The Chiefs were 10-2 in conference, with their only losses coming again West Valley and Wenatchee.

Russ said he is not thinking about their victory over Moses Lake.

“I’m throwing that out the window. It’s a brand new game and a brand new day. If we don’t’ go in there ready to play, it’s not going to be a good day for us,” Russ said.

The Panthers beat the Chiefs 3-2 on April 19 at Moses Lake. Russ is being close-lipped about what they did to pull that upset, nor would he predict that it would be a low scoring game again.

“I can’t give away any of our secrets. We’ll play that one close to the vest. Hopefully, we can go in there and play a good game,” Russ said. “I really don’t expect anything how or low. I’m just going to go in there and call the best game I can. I’m sure my players will try to play the best game they can. We’ll see what happens at the end.”

Wenatchee plays at Moses Lake on Friday as the Big 9 District Playoffs continue.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157