Felecia Harris showed that she’s just as deadly with her powerful bat as she is with her golden right arm.
Kentlake’s University of Washington-bound pitcher/infielder went 1 for 3 with a key two-run homer last Friday afternoon, and Caitlyn Duggan delivered a gem in the circle, leading the Falcons past Kentwood in a key South Puget Sound League North Division showdown, 5-2.
Clinging to a 3-1 lead with one out in the top of the fifth, Harris sent a shoulder-high fastball from Kentwood ace Kirsten Shreve deep over the left-center fence, virtually securing the victory.
The blast meant a lot to Harris, who is recovering from October shoulder surgery and hasn’t been her usual tack-sharp self in the circle this season.
“It felt great. Kirsten is a great pitcher, and anybody is happy getting a good hit, walking, anything off her,” Harris said. “When I am not pitching, I have more time to work on my hitting and realize what I am doing there. It felt great to know, even though I wasn’t pitching, I was able to contribute with the bat.”
Duggan delivered a Harris-like performance in the circle, scattering four hits and striking out nine on a frigid and windy afternoon.
With the win, the Falcons (8-0 in league, 12-0 overall) gained complete control of the SPSL North race. With four league games remaining, Kentlake now has a two-game cushion on second-place Kentwood (7-2, 9-3).
It also was Kentlake’s 27th consecutive SPSL North win.
For the second time in a little more than a week, the Conquerors gave the Falcons all they could handle, only to fall short.
“We want to be the one (that beats them), plain and simple,” Kentwood coach Jason Wisor said. “Everybody wants to be the team that beats them this year because they know they can.”
The loss overshadowed another impressive performance in the circle from Kentwood’s Shreve, who allowed just five hits and struck out 10. Other than a rough third inning, during which she allowed three runs, and the fifth-inning home run to Harris, Shreve was dominant. She threw 80 of her 118 pitches — 40 of which came in the third inning — for strikes.
That third inning, however, proved to be Shreve’s undoing. After two quick outs, Kentlake freshman Jessie Richardson delivered the at-bat of the game, working a 10-pitch walk. Julianne Hartnett followed with a bloop single over third base, setting the stage for Brianne Bilbrey’s RBI single just into left field.
“The absolute key at-bat was Richardson,” Kentlake coach Greg Kaas said. “She hit foul ball after foul ball. She doesn’t have a hit to show for it, but that’s the key to the game.”
After Bilbrey’s run-scoring single, Hartnett came home on a passed ball, pushing Kentlake’s lead to 2-0. Two batters later, Lauren Nielsen added to the rally with a laser up the middle, scoring Bilbrey.
And it all came with two outs.
“They just got some little bloopers in the gaps … it’s tough to get those,” Shreve said with lament. “There was nothing I could do about it.”
Kentwood’s Jessica Glenn cut the deficit to 3-1 with an RBI single in the bottom half of the third. Glenn added a run-scoring double down the left-field line in the fifth, but it proved to be too little, too late for the Conquerors.
The loss aside, Shreve wants another crack at the Falcons.
“I hope we see them again,” she said. “They’re a good team, but we’re right up there with them.”
• ALSO: Kentridge (5-2, 6-3) remained very much in the hunt for a top-three regular-season finish on Friday with a key 11-4 win over Tahoma. It was Kentridge’s third win in its last four games. Nicole Barger continued her torrid pace, going 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Emily Pfaff added two hits and two RBIs while Kelli Suguro chipped in a pair of hits and three runs scored. The loss dropped Tahoma (5-5, 8-8) into fifth place. The top five teams in the division advance to the postseason. … Kent-Meridian notched its first SPSL North win on Friday, hanging on to beat Federal Way, 5-4. Shanelle Rainwater went the distance in the circle to earn the win for the Royals (1-8, 1-9). Rainwater also tallied a pair of hits and two RBIs.