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Bulldogs clinch league softball title

Staci Schneider helped her cause with an RBI in an 11-2 win in the nightcap against Elma on Monday.Buy Photo
Staci Schneider helped her cause with an RBI in an 11-2 win in the nightcap against Elma on Monday.
Brendan Carl | The Vidette Megan Choate made several defensive plays, including a diving catch to save a run in the first game, to help lift Montesano over Elma on Monday.Buy Photo
Brendan Carl | The Vidette Megan Choate made several defensive plays, including a diving catch to save a run in the first game, to help lift Montesano over Elma on Monday.

The East County rivalry was on full display on Monday at Hyde Field in Montesano as Elma and Monte met in their only scheduled softball showdown this season.

It was fitting that the lowest scoring game of the season would clinch the Evergreen 1A League championship for Monte, but the Eagles gave the Bulldogs all they had. Monte (13-4, 10-0) escaped with a 1-0 victory in the first game before opening the floodgates in the nightcap 11-2.

“I’m pretty proud of the girls because it wasn’t just one girl,” Monte coach Pat Pace said. “It was a team effort.”

The first game of the doubleheader showdown turned into a duel between Monte’s Madison Didion and Elma’s Brooke Goldsmith. Didion, a junior, held Elma to six hits and struck out four, while Goldsmith had one of the best performances of the year against the Bulldogs holding Monte to just three hits and striking out eight. In the end, the Bulldogs’ one run would be unearned as Rayna Ashlock reached on a ball between the third baseman’s legs. Ashlock stole second and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice before Monte senior Madi Studer knocked her home to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning.

“It was our defense,” Monte coach Pat Pace said. “They came out and Madison placed the ball well and they are good hitters, they put the ball in play and we had to back her up and the defense behind Madison really helped her in that game. As a junior coming into this game facing off against Brooke Goldsmith pitch for pitch (Didion) was pretty excited and pumped for this game and so I think that gave her the drive to pitch as well as she did.”

Elma (7-7, 5-5) was not without its chances in the game as the Eagles stranded a runner in six innings.

“We didn’t get timely hits together,” Elma coach Janene Todd said. “We had some good hits. In the first game, we had six hits and they had three and they score on an error. It is just that timing.”

The second game of the doubleheader was tied at 1-1 for the first three innings before the Bulldogs broke it open with four runs in the fourth inning.

“We focused a little bit more at the plate and we let the rise ball go,” Pace said. “We were just more selective in the second game.”

While Staci Schneider would get the win for Monte in the second game only allowing one run in 3.2 innings of work, Didion entered the game to pitch in the fourth. The junior shut down the Eagles giving up one run on just one hit. For Didion, however, her favorite moment from Monday came when the bats began to catch fire with Monte scoring 10 runs in the final four innings.

“Girls started hitting the ball and that is what we have been waiting for all season,” Didion said. “Those kinds of hits are what we see in the cage all of the time, but it is finally being executed on the field.”

Goldsmith fought through fatigue in the second game to finish with only two walks on the day and she managed to get on base in five out of her eight plate appearances. Overall, the Eagles couldn’t find the offense to overcome Monte in either game.

“We were flat completely that second game,” Todd said. “We haven’t quite learned how to play two full games back to back. When we get down, we get down and we haven’t figured out how to pick ourselves back up.”

While Elma feels close to greatness, Monte has begun to peak at the right time before the district tournament. The Bulldogs edged Lakeside 6-5 on Saturday before the battle with Elma and the experience of overcoming situations where they have their backs against the wall with the game on the line has been beneficial Pace said.

“These games right here facing quality teams can only make us better,” Pace said. “Even if we would have come out and lost that first game it still would have us better for districts. I’m pretty proud of all of our kids.”