SELMA – It turned out the best birthday presents Angelica McKibben could get were the ones she gave herself.
When her Wapahani softball team took its soggy field Monday afternoon against powerful Shenandoah, the senior gave her squad seven solid innings of six-hit ball. Then, with the game tied in the sixth inning, she gave the third pitch she saw a ride over the left-field fence for a pair of runs and what proved to be the winning margin in a 6-4 contest.
“I knew I had to get it in play,” said McKibben, now 3-0 in the circle. “I could hear my team telling me she was going inside, so I kind of got off the plate a little bit. The next one, I think it was a change-up, I’m not for sure, but I saw it inside and I just swung as hard as I could.
“It’s the best birthday present you could ask for. Can’t get much better.”
As she rounded third, she was serenaded with a round of “Happy Birthday” by a mass of teammates waiting at home plate.
The game was played in cold, blustery conditions on a field not in the best shape. Enough rain from the night before had gotten under the tarp, and despite a 35-minute delay of first pitch to help remedy that, it still wasn’t in peak shape.
But that did little to keep the two undefeated teams from trading punches throughout.
After Shenandoah (4-1) plated two runs in the opening frame, the teams saw three ties and one lead change after that. Wapahani (8-0) went ahead by a run twice, only to see Shenandoah rally, the final time when Ashley Brown scored from second on an overthrow from the catcher in the top of the sixth.
But after Rhyan Webster’s soft single to center extended the bottom of the sixth, McKibben had her chance and made good (she also allowed only a single earned run, striking out six).
The five earned runs allowed were a season-high for Shenandoah ace Rachel Krathwohl (3-1). She struck out seven and limited dangerous Wapahani hitter Kaija Aikman (0-for-3, RBI). But cleanup hitter Sara Masters, no slouch in her own right, notched three hits, including a double.
“On a cold day like this, pitchers don’t have their stuff,” Shenandoah coach Stacy Goyette said. “A lot of wind. The grips are hard to maintain. Days like today, it’s pretty much spot your fastball and changeup, see what happens.”
Goyette added she wasn’t worried about giving a sectional opponent a look at her top arm. In the past she’s gone both ways — throwing a secondary pitcher against a potential postseason foe or throwing the ace. She said she didn’t think it had much impact and actually allowed Krathwohl to get a feel for the Wapahani lineup.
It’s not as if they’re unfamiliar foes, as Krathwohl’s work ended Wapahani’s season a year ago. Her complete game derailed a top-5 team and in all likelihood cost Wapahani a third sectional in a row.
The teams had tried to meet once before, but rain scuttled the game after an inning. Monday, the memories of what will likely be yet another rematch this season still stuck with Wapahani.
“That’s always a little stinger,” said Wapahani coach Jacci Glancy, noting her squad was uncharacteristically sloppy with four errors. “They’re just another team. Yes, they’re a team in our sectional and we can learn a lot from this game, just as they can learn a lot also.
“But it is always nice to have the team rally and beat the team that knocked us out.”