FORT WALTON BEACH — Rachel Dehlinger celebrated her 18th birthday in style Thursday.
Dehlinger, a senior pitcher for Fort Walton Beach, threw a three-hit shutout and struck out 11 batters to lead Fort Walton Beach to a 6-0 win over Crestview in District 2-6A softball.
"She (Dehlinger) turned 18 today and she threw a great game," Viking coach Gary Drouin said. "She was very good.
"She got ahead of the hitters early and mixed her pitches well. We just kept making outs, outs."
Dehlinger got all the help she needed from the Viking offense in the bottom of the first inning when Shannon Lord connected for a long 3-run homer that came with Jennifer Bazylak and Brandee Reyna on base.
"That really helped," Drouin said of Lord's homer. "She kept in our system of looking for a fastball and having a good swing on it and good things happen."
The Vikings (6-2, 3-1) added another run in the third. Bazylak struck out but reached first on a passed ball and throwing error by Bulldog catcher Kelsie Dardon. She then stole second and took third and scored on wild pitches by Crestview pitcher Taylor Rolison.
Fort Walton Beach put the game out of reach in the fifth inning when three consecutive hits by Kati Christensen, Bazylak and Dehlinger produced two more Viking runs.
Crestview batters struggled against Dehlinger the entire game.
A two-out single by Kayla Kelch in the first inning was the only Bulldog hit until Dardon doubled with one out in the sixth. Dehlinger retired 14-consecutive Bulldog batters between the Kelch base hit in the first and Dardon's double in the sixth.
Taylor Nolan picked up the final hit for the Bulldogs (3-4, 1-3) with two outs in the top of the seventh. Nolan took second when Molly Woodward struck out and reached first on a passed ball.
Dardon and Nolan were the only two Bulldogs to reach second base.
Bazylak was the only player in the game with two hits. She had a single and a double. Haley Wong also had a hit for the Vikings to go along with Dehlinger, Lord and Christensen.
Rolison, a freshman, struck out seven Viking batters and walked one.
Bulldog Kathy Combest said the scoreboard told the story of the game.
"When you have a zero up there you're not going to win," she said. "We've got to swing the bat. I think five or seven girls struck out looking.
"You have to be aggressive. They have to keep swinging and keep playing hard. And that's all you can do is just get better towards the end of the season."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524