POULSBO — The North Kitsap fastpitch team built a 5-1 lead against South Kitsap Monday afternoon, then watched the Wolves’ Cathy Kniess slash the lead to 5-4 with one swing of the bat.
Don’t say they weren’t warned.
Vikings head coach Dan Kolda coaches Kniess on a travelling team, and he has watched the South Kitsap center fielder dismantle defenses with her bat before. “The key is to let her come to the plate with no one on base,” said Kolda, whose Vikings weren’t able to do that Monday afternoon.
Despite the threat by Kniess and the other Wolves, the Vikings used tight defense, timely hitting and a strong pitching performance by starter Shana McLaughlin to hold onto the lead and win 6-4.
The Vikings had built a 5-0 lead in the first four innings against SK starter Dawn Thomas.
Thomas retired the Vikings in order in the first inning, but hit a bump in the second when Jamie Heins dropped a single in front of the South Kitsap left fielder, then hustled to third when the outfielder let the ball skip by.
Heins came home when Melissa Allen rapped an RBI single; Allen came home herself after a single by Rachel Skinner advanced her to third and a Lisa Gilbert single let her run home.
The Vikings’ lead stood at 2-0 until the fourth, when they added three more runs.
McLaughlin, who manned the hill for NK , also helped at the plate by driving a double into right field to open the frame.
Katie Johnson, running for McLaughlin, scored on a single by Skinner; Skinner scored on a single by Stice; and Skinner scored on an RBI groundout by Heather Case.
With the Vikings lead now at 5-0, it was the Wolves’ turn to chip away.
In the fifth inning, they used a pair of singles and a North Kitsap error to lead the bases, then scored their first run when Jackie Binns, batting leadoff, coaxed a walk from McLaughlin.
A groundout helped ease the pressure, but then it was Kniess’s turn at the plate.
Kolda, who had coached the outfielder the weekend before the game, knew what kind of a hitter she was.
After she hit the triple deep into center field to make it a one-run game, he said: “We knew she was capable of that. She did it this weekend.”
But the Vikings responded. McLaughlin bore down in the sixth and seventh innings to shut out the Wolves, and Case added an RBI double — belting the ball over Kniess’s head — to add an insurance run.
The Vikings (4-2, 1-1 L) earned their first league win with the victory. The Wolves (4-2, 1-1 L) will host North Kitsap April 16.
Vikings coach Dan Kolda said Kniess’s big hit made it closer than the Vikings wanted, but he was proud of his team’s balanced attack: “There were lots of multi-hit players all through my lineup. That’s something we know about the team, that we can get big hits from anyone,” he said.
South Kitsap 0000400 – 4 5 2
North Kitsap 020301X – 6 12 3
Binns and Starkweather; McLaughlin and Brenda Stice. W – McLaughlin. L – Thomas. Leading hitters: North Kitsap, Brenda Stice, 2-4, Jamie Heins 2-3, 2B, Melissa Allen 2-3, Rachel Skinner 2-3, 2B. South Kitsap, Cathy Kniess 2-4, 3B.