WALLA WALLA — Connell senior pitcher Ashley Thompson proved to be more than Wa-Hi could handle during non-conference softball action Tuesday afternoon at Murr Sports Park.
Thompson, who has already signed a national letter-of-intent to further her softball career at Brigham Young University, struck out 14 and overcame six walks as the two-time defending Class 1A state champion Eagles soared to a 5-0 victory over the Blue Devils.
“She was digging pretty deep,” Connell coach Andy Sawyer said. “It’s an everyday occurrence — a lot of strikeouts. She attacked them pretty good. Her change-up was working O.K.”
Connell improved its record to 7-0 while Wa-Hi slipped to 1-1.
The Eagles broke a scoreless tie with a run in the fourth inning and added three more tallies in the fifth on a wild pitch, an error, and a sacrifice fly by McKenna Mathis.
“We made some mental errors on defense and lost the momentum in the middle of the game,” Wa-Hi coach Kate Keyes said.
“We didn’t hit the ball particularly well, but the girls executed on the bases,” Sawyer said. “Our speed helped us out a lot. We try to back Ashley as best we can.”
Connell picked up its final run in the seventh.
Thompson struck out six of the first seven hitters she faced before issuing a one-out walk to Lauren Likes in the third. Likes advanced as far as second base, but no further.
The Blue Devils squandered scoring chances in innings four, five and six. They stranded two baserunners in both the fourth and sixth frames.
Wa-Hi’s best scoring opportunity came in the fifth when it loaded the bases with one out. But Thompson struck out Libbie Jimenez and Kendsey Hill popped out to second to end the threat.
“She needs to feel that pressure,” Sawyer said. “She’s matured into a great mental pitcher. She takes care of business — both physically and mentally.”
“We need to be more aggressive at the plate,” Keyes said. “She’s a great pitcher, but we looked at too many third strikes. We couldn’t move runners around.”
Wa-Hi opens Mid-Columbia Conference play Friday when it hosts Chiawana at 3 p.m.
Connell 5, Wa-Hi 0
Connell 000 130 1 — 5 9 0
Wa-Hi 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Thompson and Shuster; Rassbach, Ferenz (6) and Hill.
HR — none.
Hits — Connell: Thompson 2, Sawyer 2, Mathis 2, Corrales, Egbert, Schultz; Wa-Hi: Hill, Clark, McDaniels.