Just 24 hours after tying the school’s career hits record, Washington senior Nichole Brinker stood alone atop the record book.
Brinker’s infield single in the bottom of the first inning Friday in the first round of the Francis Howell Central Classic against Hazelwood Central was the 129th hit of her career, passing the former record of 128 set by MC Landolt in 2013. Washington (11-7) defeated Hazelwood Central (3-6), 16-0, but lost to Francis Howell North (7-7), 10-0, Saturday and finished fourth after a 6-1 loss to Incarnate Word (7-4) in the third-place game.
Brinker comes flying out of the batters box on her swings, reminiscent of Major League Baseball’s single season hits record holder Ichiro Suzuki, often trying to slap the ball the other way and either find a hole or beat out a throw.
“When she came in, she had never hit left-handed,” Head Coach Philip King said. “Her freshman year, she had so much speed, and she has great hand-eye coordination, and I told her, ‘Hey, you should try slapping.’ So, (she) picked it up her freshman year and most people who we play wouldn’t believe that she hadn’t been slapping for a long time. She’s just a really good athlete.”
Brinker followed the record-setting hit by stealing second base, inching her closer to the school’s career steals record as well. She now trails that mark, 64, set by Lauren Austin in 2002, by just two steals.
She reached on an error in her second plate appearance of the inning. That would be all the opportunities she would receive Friday as Washington won via the mercy rule after the top of the third.
She went 1-7 in Saturday’s two games, the lone hit coming on single to left field to lead off the bottom of the first against Incarnate Word.
The Lady Jays collected just four hits against Howell North in the semifinal and their seven hits against Incarnate Word were scattered.
“We were just a little off,” King said. “We hit a lot of pop flies, so it was pretty easy for them to catch.”
Washington did put three hits together in the bottom of the second inning against Incarnate Word for its only run of the tournament’s second day. Jena Monehan reached on a one-out single and stole second before scoring on Emma Piar-Shaw’s double to left center. Piar-Shaw then scored on Payton Dubberke’s single to right.
Incarnate Word put across two runs on six hits in the first three innings against Washington freshman Maddie Holtmeyer (0-1). The Red Knights capitalized on a couple of fly balls lost in the sun, paired with timely hitting to extend their lead in the later innings.
Piar-Shaw and Taylor Hendrix each recorded two hits in the contest. Hendrix also had two hits in the semifinal contest with Howell North. She batted 5-9 on the tournament with a double and two RBIs.
Pitching, Hendrix (4-3) made two appearances and shut down Hazelwood Central for the complete-game three-inning shutout victory. She allowed just four hits and struck out eight during the shutout. In her second appearance, she came on to relieve Holtmeyer in the third-place game, allowing four runs, three earned, on eight hits across three innings.
Ellie Quaethem (7-3) handled the final frame against Incarnate Word, allowing no runs on one hit. She took the loss in the semifinals, allowing six runs, two earned, on nine hits over five innings.