Talented Timberwolves battling for league crown | Softball

Jackson seeks fourth straight trip to state tournament
By David Pan | May 05, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Senior Sam Mutolo said that this year’s Jackson team is the best she’s been a part of in her four years with the program.

Jackson is right where it expected and hoped to be this season – battling for the Wesco 4A softball title with an eye toward a possible fourth straight district championship and a fourth straight trip to the state tournament.

The Timberwolves’ path, however, took a slight detour when they were knocked from the unbeaten ranks by Lake Stevens on Tuesday, May 1. Emma Fortney hit a 2-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead the Vikings to a 3-1 victory.

Wolfpack junior pitcher Iyanla Pennington had tied the score at 1 with a home run in the top of the seventh inning. Tuesday’s loss means that Jackson and Lake Stevens split their regular season series with the Timberwolves taking a 2-1 decision in the first clash in late March.

The two teams also are tied for first place in the league with 10-1 records with three games remaining in the regular season.

The loss to the Vikings was the third straight tight contest for Jackson, who pulled out a 5-2 victory over Glacier Peak on Wednesday, April 25, and a 5-3 win over Monroe on Friday, April 27.

“It’s good to have them,” senior catcher Sam Mutolo said of close games. “We have to be ready for that. We don’t get that many pressure situations.”

Jackson (16-1 overall) has won nine of its 17 games by 10 runs or more this season. Prior to the Glacier Peak game, the Wolfpack had outscored its previous three opponents 68-2.

While the Timberwolves enjoyed what turned out to be a 16-game winning streak, going undefeated during the regular season isn’t what they are striving for this year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it,” Jackson coach Kyle Peacocke said. “It wasn’t our goal to go undefeated. … We just try to win games”

Jackson certainly has achieved those goals on the arm of Pennington and a veteran lineup of returning starters.

Mutolo, who has been on varsity since her freshman season, said that this year’s squad is the best of the four she’s been a part of.

“We’re better under pressure,” Mutolo said.

Senior shortstop Kristina Day added that the Timberwolves are continually striving to improve their game, even when they were riding a 16-game unbeaten streak.

“The bar is kind of always climbing up, so like right when you think you reach where you want to be, there’s always a little more you can do to get better as a team,” Day said. “But I think we’re doing really well and we’re on a really good path right now.”

The Wolfpack continues to work on their hitting, Day said, and being more disciplined at the plate. The team still needs to make adjustments earlier in the game.

“If we can do that better, I think we’ll be more successful in scoring runs and getting ahead of teams,” Day said.

As good as Pennington, who earned first-team, all-league honors, was last year, she’s upped her game. Last year

Pennington sometimes left the ball over the plate, Mutolo said. That’s rarely happened this season.

“She’s definitely been hitting her spots,” Mutolo said. “She’s doing well in hitting the corners for sure.”

Pennington said her speed has increased.

“I think I’ve gotten a little faster and have a little more spin on my ball,” she said. “I have more control and I’m more relaxed, especially with Sam behind the plate. She’s always a good person to calm me down in stressful situations.”

Day admitted that it seems like she and the other infielders have less work to do during games.

“We actually don’t get that many plays, but when we do, we try to back her up as best we can and make those plays,” Day said. “She’s just been spot on.”

Peacocke agrees that Pennington seems more comfortable with her role.

“She has just another year of maturity and understanding the game and I think more than anything confidence,” the Jackson coach said. “She been to districts. She’s been to state. I think she has an understanding of what she wants to do. When I get nervous, she rises. When they have runners on base, it’s like she can go to another gear in terms of velocity and focus.”

The district tournament is scheduled for May 15-17 at Phil Johnson Fields in Everett. As either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, Jackson would have to win only two games in order to secure a berth to the state tournament.

“We definitely came out thinking about the postseason even at the beginning of the season and just going all out in all of our games and going as far as we can,” Pennington said.

“If we keep the energy up, we’re definitely going to be where we want to be for the postseason,” Mutolo added.

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