McKenzie Kosmicki was at the top of her game Friday.
In “beast mode,” as she calls it, the West Albany High senior never let Dallas be comfortable in the batter’s box, getting ahead early and then dominating at-bats with what she wanted to throw.
Kosmicki tossed a complete-game one-hitter and the Bulldog bats eventually came around in a 3-0 home win in a Mid-Willamette Conference softball game.
“I had to go straight for the batters and I had to trust my stuff,” she said. “When you think beast mode, that’s all you think about is punching those batters in the throat and going right at them. You’ve got to get them on their heels.”
Kosmicki, a senior right-hander headed to Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham next year, struck out five and walked five. Three of her bases-on-balls came in the seventh inning as she started to lose her pitches low.
The third walk loaded the bases with two outs. But Kosmicki retired Dallas leadoff batter Madelyn Loughary for the fourth time in as many tries, drawing a grounder to second base to end the game.
“She’s the ultimate competitor,” West coach Ryan Borde said of Kosmicki. “If she can pitch like that, we can go a long ways. That’s the girl that we know and we’ve seen.”
She found the strike zone early in counts and then painted corners of the plate and made the Dragons swing at bad pitches.
There were few well-hit balls against Kosmicki. The only Dallas hit — a hard liner to right field for a single by Clara Woolsey in the fifth — was one of those.
Kosmicki got some help from her younger sister, junior Kendra Kosmicki, who brought back what would have been a two-run home run for Madeline Doig with a catch at the fence in left field with one out in the sixth.
“She never wanted to play softball and I got her out here and she’s being that little superstar. I couldn’t be more proud of my little sister right now,” McKenzie Kosmicki said. “I’m excited that she picked up on the sport that we all love as a family and I’m excited to see her play next year when I’m gone.”
With their pitcher putting up zeroes early in the game, the Bulldogs (9-2, 6-0 MWC) were trying to find ways to get something on the scoreboard for themselves against the Dragons (6-5, 4-1) and left-hander Kadence Morrison, whom Borde called “a really good pitcher.”
Borde grew frustrated in the bottom of the third inning as his players left the bats on their shoulders with good pitches going by. West wasn’t following its own hitting philosophy, which is finding hittable balls early in pitch counts.
But that quickly changed in that frame.
Riley Ramirez hit a hard liner that was caught by shortstop Chloe Zajac. But Serena Hattori turned a grounder into an infield hit and Presley Jantzi pounded a ball to center field for a double that gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
“We were letting that girl (Morrison) … get ahead of us and we should have been attacking and we weren’t,” Borde said. “We finally made the adjustment there and things came through. We finally found some success once we started attacking those pitches.”
West found more offense with more contact in the fifth.
Ramirez led off with a walk, Hattori bunted for a single and Jantzi loaded the bases with a blooper that Dallas reliever Katelyn Buchholz couldn’t corral. Ellie Babbitt grounded into a force at home before McKenzie Kosmicki sent the first pitch she saw deep to center for a two-run double and a 3-0 advantage.
After starting the season 6-0, the Bulldogs took two losses in three days, to McNary (13-3) and Wilsonville (13-1). West has won three straight since, outscoring opponents 22-5.
McKenzie Kosmicki said her team was flat in those games and that the defeats brought her and her teammates together to work harder in practice and make plays for each other.
Borde says the team might have “got a little cocky.”
“It brought us back down to Earth, and sometimes that’s going to happen,” the coach said. “But I’m really proud of the girls how they’ve bounced back since then. McNary and Wilsonville are legit programs. We believe we’re up there with them, we just didn’t show it those two days.”
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.