Kurt Howard
Pitcher Charli Elliott of West Seattle winds up as Chief Sealth's Malia Dewey (22) waits on 3rd before scoring and tying the game at one apiece in the second inning.

SLIDESHOW: Chief Sealth holds on to defeat West Seattle in softball

By Kurt Howard

Chief Sealth International High School hosted cross town rival West Seattle High School in a girl’s fastpitch conference game at the Southwest Athletic Complex on Wednesday, April 24th. The weather was sunny and warm, but there was a wind that didn’t seem to affect the game. This ended up being a great game to watch, no matter which dugout you were supporting.

The first inning was uneventful for both teams, three up and three down. Then, in the top of the 2nd inning, West Seattle got on the board first when Gabby Wenn scored on a hit by Katie DuLong. Chief Sealth would then answer back when Alana Sullivan crossed the plate to tie the game in the bottom of that same inning. In the 3rd inning, Chief Sealth would take the lead when Malia Dewey and Megan Hafermann both scored.

The 4th, 5th and 6th innings were scoreless, but in the top of the 7th thing began to happen. With the score 3-1, in favor of Chief Sealth, West Seattle was up to bat. Chief Sealth’s starting pitcher Chleo Behar was still throwing. First up for West Seattle was Gabby Wenn, who walked. With aggressive base running, Gabby stole second, which put her in scoring position. Teammate Rachel DeVore then had a timely base hit that sent Gabby home from second. As the throw was made to catcher Claire Erickson, Gabby slid in safe at home. With the ball still at Rachel, home stole 2nd, so now she was in scoring position, with the score 2-3.

Chleo Behar then walked her second batter of the inning: this time it was Katie DuLong. Now the tying run was on 2nd and the go ahead run was on 1st, and most important, there still were no outs.

Next up to bat was Sarah DuLong, who struck out - a sigh of relief from Chief Sealth players and fans. Now Hannah Gordon-Kirk was up, she was the fifth batter in the inning. Hannah was at full count when she hit a short pop up and base runner Katie DuLong took off for 2nd. Chief Sealth’s pitcher Chloe Behar caught the ball, turned and threw it to 1st for a double play - game over! Chief Sealth wins a nail biter over West Seattle, 3-2.

After the game I talked with both coaches to get their take on the game - first with West Seattle’s head coach Sylvia Hahn, who is in her 1st year as coach after spending four years at Garfield. “We’re a very young team,” coach Hahn said. “We have only two seniors and they don't even start. We have all freshmen, except three sophomores that start. Our main pitcher is a freshman and our starting outfield is all freshmen who have never played fastpitch ever in their life!” HUH, can you believe it, NEVER played fastpitch before? Wowzers, very impressive to be able to compete at this level!

“They are soccer stars at West Seattle high school but they have never played organized softball. So we started from the bottom up, just teaching base running, and where they need to go with the ball when the plays are being made, backing up and other situations. It's just amazing how much you have to teach someone, but they're doing very well. It is amazing how we compete with other teams that have a lot more experience. Athleticism does help, but there is definitely an intelligence level in softball that exists if you've been playing it for a long time. It's hard to grasp that if you haven't had it and you're just a freshman coming in to learn the first time, that's a big deal. It can be stressful, intimidating, but so much success has happened for these freshman, it's been doing nothing but building upon their confidence by playing.

“Today was the first game they truly came together as a team”, continued coach Hahn. “They realize that no matter where they are put in positions, they are there to be part of the team and do the best at that position no matter what. We have some amazing leaders, not just one, but amazing leaders who are freshmen and sophomores. They know what it takes, and when they're older this team will definitely do something. We have one freshman that’s amazing, Gabby Wenn, that has complete potential to do anything she wants to do. Charli Elliott, who is working really hard to be a better pitcher but she's also good at shortstop, and valuable there. And of course you have Annalisa Ursino (a sophomore) who can play many different positions. In general everybody on this team is working together to be a better team and win. Although we fell short, 3 to 2 is not shabby.”

I also asked 4th year head coach Mike Depew of Chief Sealth what he thought of the game . “We’re happy to get a win against West Seattle whenever we can do it. It's been a long traditional rivalry and it's an important game for our girls. They know the players on the other team and the other team knows our girls very well. They've been playing Little League together, and they socialize together, and they know each other quite well. It puts that much more pressure on them but our girls played good solid ball, good defense and all of our offense looked very solid. We got some timely hits, strung them together and were able to hang on with a double play to end the game. I'm very proud of the girls.”

When commenting on the play that ended the game, coach Depew said, “They had their number nine batter up, we only had one out and they have two runners on base. So at that point it is very important for us to get a double play, which fortunately we were able to do. Those don't happen a lot at this level - it's a long way from being automatic. The girls knew what to do; they made the catch, made the throw and ended the game.

I asked the coach which players stood out today. “Our pitcher, Chloe Behar (a senior), pitched strong through the whole game and really kept their offense on their heels and did a very nice job. Defensively, Delaney Ballard made a lot of plays at second base, she was very solid. Megan Hafermann, our shortstop, was also very solid. They would hit the ball hard at them and they were making their plays and that's what made the difference in a one run game.”

Where does Chief Sealth stand with their class of players? “We have seven senior starters on the team so it’s a good solid group for us. These girls have played together for a long time and have worked hard to get to this level.” With a smile coach Depew said, “We didn't play like this four years ago, that's for sure. We also have a good solid sophomore class on the team. Claire Erickson is a freshman at third base. She came into the program, made the varsity team and has done a super job for us. She’s filled a big hole from a graduating senior last year.”

After watching this competitive game and talking to the coaches, it appears to me that things are looking up for both fastpitch programs.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.