WALLA WALLA — With the winning run perched on second base, Wa-Hi softball player Ellie Rassbach knew she simply needed a single.
With one out and two runners on in the bottom of the seventh, Rassbach did just that, lining a Sarah Gilliam pitch back up the middle to deliver a dramatic 3-2 win over visiting Southridge in the opener of a Mid-Columbia Conference twin bill at Murr Field on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t looking to do anything too crazy,” Rassbach said. “I was looking for a pitch and she threw that pitch.”
Rassbach wasn’t done with the dramatics, though.
She turned around in the nightcap and tossed a complete game, allowing just one run and four hits over seven innings. She struck out 13 and walked none, as the Blue Devils completed the sweep, 3-1.
“She threw one of her best games she’s thrown all season,” Wa-Hi coach Kate Keyes said. “She was phenomenal. She just kept the hitters on their toes and kept them guessing.”
“I was throwing my game,” Rassbach added. “I wasn’t letting the batters control the game. I was controlling the game. Our defense played great. A lot of credit goes to them.”
In the opener, the Wa-Hi bats were held in check for the first five innings by Southridge’s starter, Gilliam. The Blue Devils, who only had four hits heading into the sixth, came alive with the game on the line, however.
It started in the sixth, as Wa-Hi loaded the bases after Jordy Storm was hit by a pitch, Rassbach walked and Jacie McDaniels stroked a single. With one down in the frame, Kate Ferenz walked to score Storm and Whitney Enriquez followed with a bloop single to plate Rassbach.
With the game knotted at two, Blue Devil starter Brandi Schoessler retired the side in the top of the seventh to preserve the tie.
“She’s a tough pitcher and she’s a tough athlete,” Keyes said. “She battled all the way through and continued to battle all the way through.”
Schoessler, who allowed a solo home run in the second and an unearned run in the third, kept the Suns’ hitters at bay for a majority of the game. She allowed just five hits over seven innings, while striking out eight.
In the bottom of the seventh, Wa-Hi’s Lauren Likes and Jordy Storm led off with back-to-back singles, before Rassbach’s walk-off ended the opener.
Rassbach then stifled the Suns in the circle in game two.
After surrendering a run on two hits to the first four batter of the game, Rassbach seemed automatic from there. She retired the next 14 hitters she faced, including nine by strikeout.
“I was in the zone,” she said. “It felt good.”
She spread out just two more hits over the final six innings, as her pitching and the airtight Wa-Hi defense made life difficult for Southridge hitters.
“Our defense did an excellent job,” Keyes said. “The other team did a good job of putting the ball in play and they hit the ball hard — hat’s off to our defense.”
The offense, which evened the score in the bottom of the first, found earlier success against Gilliam in the rematch.
The Blue Devils plated another run in the second, as Maddie Fortney came around to score on a Madelyne Aichele single to right center field.
Wa-Hi extended its lead in the fifth, as Jacie McDaniels lined a double to left field before Whitney Enriquez brought her in with a groundout.
The Blue Devils’ top two in the batting order — Aichele and Likes — finished with two hits and one RBI apiece.
“It helps not having to adjust to a new pitcher,” Keyes said. “They kind of know what to expect. If you have to adjust to a different speed or someone who throws a different style of pitch, oftentimes it’s a little harder for the kids to adjust.”
The Suns brought the winning run to the plate in the top of the seventh with just one out, but Rassbach responded with back-to-back strikeouts to shut the door on any thought of a comeback.
The Blue Devils (8-4 overall, 4-4 in MCC) host Pasco on Friday.
Southridge 011 000 0 — 2 5 0
Wa-Hi 000 002 1 — 3 9 0
Gilliam and Tolison. Schoessler and McDaniels.
HR — Southridge: Ziemba.
Hits — Southridge: Tolison, Ziemba, Meyer, Yocum, Hammond. Wa-Hi: Likes (2), Storm, Rassbach (2), McDaniels (2), Enriquez, Leighty.
Southridge 100 000 0 — 1 4 2
Wa-Hi 110 010 X — 3 5 0
Gilliam and Meyer. Rassbach and McDaniels.
HR — none.
Hits — Southridge: Gilliam, Ziemba, Yocum. Wa-Hi: Aichele (2), Likes (2), McDaniels.