After a strong start to its season, Mercer Island fastpitch has had a rough go since returning from spring break. Following a 12-2 loss to KingCo's second-place Mount Si on Monday, the Islanders lost to first-place Lake Washington 6-0 Friday, April 18 at Crestwoods Park Ballfields. The loss marked the team's fourth in a row, dropping the Islanders to 2-5 in KingCo and 6-6 overall.
"Both teams we faced this week have big bats," said coach Jessica Steinle after Friday's game. "We just need a hit. It's clear we took a break and we're just not seeing the ball well right now."
Despite playing with only nine players against Lake Washington, Mercer Island hung around with the KingCo-leading Kangs in the game's opening innings, with neither team scoring until the third inning. But a four-run third inning by Lake Washington ultimately put the Islanders away for the team's second loss of the week. Camryn Steiner went 2-3 for Mercer Island, while Jane Akiyoshi was 1-2.
Heading into spring break, the Islanders were 2-1 in KingCo and 6-2 overall. But without enough players to compete during the break, Mercer Island had to forfeit two games, only to return to action against the conference's top two teams. With only nine players available, Mercer Island had to play a few people out of position. And the coach wasn't too thrilled about having two games forfeited.
"The 6-2 record sounds beautiful, but when you tack on two forfeits and it suddenly goes to 6-4, it doesn't sound so pretty anymore," said Steinle.
Prior to the break, Steinle chalked her team's good start to the Islanders maximizing the most they could get out of the available players. She said the team was doing a better job of making a lot more contact with their bats, something that has since dropped off.
"I think hitting-wise is where we need to pick it up," she said. "Defensively, I feel like we're a lot stronger now than we were at the beginning of the year. We're just not doing it offensively, which is a problem. I think they just need to get out of their heads and keep swinging the bat."
Despite her team's offensive struggles and having to put players in positions they don't normally play, Steinle has been encouraged by the effort from the players she has had available.
"Our girls don't really quit. We'll get down, but we don't quit. That's not in our vocabulary," she said. "Even when we're down to nine players and we're down by eight runs or nine runs, the girls still get out there and swing the bat and try to find a way on, and if they get on base, they're hungry to steal bases or get advanced. That's probably the biggest thing, they don't quit."
Mercer Island will take on Sammamish at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 21 at South Mercer Playfields.