Sophomore Iyanla Pennington had 16 strikeouts and allowed just three hits as the Timberwolves earned a 5-1 victory over the Vikings and a state berth.
EVERETT – Jackson’s Iyanla Pennington is just a sophomore, but she certainly doesn’t pitch like one.
Pennington led the Timberwolves to a win over Monroe in Wednesday’s district semifinals and followed that up with a three-hit, 16-strikeout performance in Thursday’s 5-1 win over Lake Stevens in the Class 4A Northwest District championship game, clinching a berth in the state tournament.
“Yesterday against Monroe, you just saw a totally different pitcher,” Jackson coach Kyle Peacocke said. “She’s having fun, totally confident and showing some emotion. I think earlier in the year she was a little bit tense, a little bit tight. She just came in here and blew them down. I’m impressed. It was awesome.”
It’s the third straight district championship for the Timberwolves, who have beaten Snohomish, last year’s 4A state champion, the past two seasons. The Panthers moved down to 3A before the start of the 2016-17 school year, but this year’s win over the Vikings followed a similar pattern. The Vikings had lost both regular-season meetings with the Panthers in each of those two seasons before beating them in the district title game, just as they did with the Vikings this season.
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“We like that script, apparently,” Peacocke said. “Two really good teams. We felt like we could hit better off of (Lake Stevens starter) Sara (Johnson) than we did in the first two games. I just can’t say enough; the kids just came out fired up and ready to go.”
Johnson threw a one-hitter against Jackson earlier in the season.
The Timberwolves took the lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by senior Taylor Adams. The Vikings tied the score in the bottom of the first on a solo home run by senior Payton Beaver.
It was the only mistake Pennington made all game.
“She threw really well and she hit her spots,” Lake Stevens coach Sarah Hirsch said. “She dominated today. Probably the best I’ve seen her throw against us all year.”
Pennington scattered the three hits she allowed over the first four innings, but was even more brilliant down the stretch. She didn’t allow a hit in the final three innings and struck out nine of the 10 batters she faced.
“Everything is starting to come together, and it’s all working out well,” Pennington said. “I’m excited to go to state with my team.”
Jackson regained the lead in the top of the third inning on a two-run triple by junior catcher Sam Mutolo.
“Sam Mutolo has just really done a great job behind the plate all year, and she’s really been a clutch hitter for us,” Peacocke said.