Connell rallies in the ninth to win
Colville came agonizingly close to capturing the school’s first state fast-pitch softball championship last Saturday afternoon at Columbia Playfield in Richland.
But like last spring, when Connell edged the Indians in the State 1A semifinals in Spokane, the Eagles broke a few more Colville hearts with a heart-stopping 4-3 championship game win in nine innings.
Close…oh, so close.
After Colville (23-4) had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, Connell sophomore Hope Sawyer drilled a two-run double to left-field that drove home McKenna Mathis and Ashley Thompson to give the Eagles a second straight 1A title.
Sawyer had three of Connell’s six hits off CHS starter Jo Rogers, who pitched as well as she has all season.
The Eagles sent the Indians into the consolation bracket of last year’s State tournament with a 7-6 extra innings’ win.
Yes, it was déjà vu all over again.
“Jo pitched the game of her life,” CHS head coach Mandy Sumner said last weekend after she had time to reflect on a season that she won’t forget anytime soon. “It was a great season…being able to watch these young women bond and become so loyal to one another.
“We didn’t bring home the trophy we wanted, but we brought home an entire bus full of absolute champions…we all communicated, worked, scrapped and fought to go as far as we could in this tournament.
“We went to Richland to make a statement, and we did. No, we weren’t able to come home with the title…a few more things go our way instead of theirs and we bring home that big trophy. But in every other way, we are champions.”
Colville opened the tournament at noon last Friday with a tougher than anticipated 6-2 win over Hoquiam.
“That one was a little bit more dramatic than I would have liked,” Sumner admitted. “We swung and missed at more outside curveballs than I ever thought possible.”
Colville had looked inept offensively as they headed into the bottom of the sixth inning (no hits and not a ball hit out of the infield).
But the Indians, with easily the best short game and running game in the 1A ranks, used its speed and base-running smarts to blow the game open in the sixth inning.
Short game doesn’t come up short
“At that point, I could see our dreams taking a miserable turn,” Sumner admitted. “There was a major cramming session going on there…I was mentally going over what my mentor, Clyde Brown (longtime former CHS softball coach), had ever taught me. And then I heard my mother’s only words of coaching advice she’d ever given me—‘be fearless.’”
Fearless the Indians were in the sixth with their short game and aggressive base-running. CHS had to do something—the “long game” certainly wasn’t going anywhere.
With the top of the order up in the sixth, the Indians went to work on a Hoquiam defense that obviously hadn’t seen much in the way of a short game attack that is long on speed, bunting and slap hitting.
“At that point, the short game was our only option,” Sumner admitted.
Shortstop and leadoff hitter Taylor Kellum, one of the fastest players in the tournament from the box to first base, was safe at first on a bunt single to get it started. Kellum promptly stole second base and went to third on a bad throw by the Hoquiam catcher.
Sumner promptly called for a squeeze bunt and third baseman Tasji Urhausen laid down the bunt and Kellum came flying down the line. The junior crossed the plate as the Hoquiam pitcher fielded the bunt late. Urhausen promptly stole second on a patented Colville delayed steal and No. 3 hitter April Hinds laid down another bunt and was safe at first.
Has anybody in Hoquiam ever seen a bunt?
Catcher Jammie Madonna laced a two-strike single to centerfield that plated Urhausen and Rogers “slug” bunted off the Hoquiam pitcher to score Hinds and make it 3-1. Centerfielder Cassie Cote laid down another bunt and was safe at first as Madonna scored.
Cabbage picked up an RBI on another bunt and left-fielder Jessi Wittmeyer picked up an RBI on a ground-out.
Game, set, match.
Cabbage came on in relief of Rogers in the fifth inning. She surrendered a run in the seventh after surrendering a pair of walks.
Colville offense comes to life against Zillah
Colville’s offense came alive in a relatively easy 9-4 quarterfinal win Friday evening over Zillah.
“Our bats came out to play against Zillah,” Sumner said of a Colville offense this season that might be the best in school history in terms of its versatility and ability to put pressure on opposing defenses. “We knew we had more weapons than any other team in the tournament. It was just a matter of using them.
“We had just completely confused Hoquiam with our aggressive base-running and short game. Now, it was time for the long-ball to catch up.”
Sumner said she has never coached a better base-running team.
“We practice our base-running…a lot,” she said.
Junior right-fielder Leanna Carr, who played the championship game against Connell with an injured left hand after crashing into a fence during warm-ups, had a big game offensively against Zillah (2-4).
Colville took full advantage of five Zillah errors and Rogers once again pitched well.
Like Hoquiam, the Indians took their sweet time getting the offense in gear.
Tied at 1-1, the Indians plated four runs in the top of the fifth inning.
A Carr triple to the left-field fence plated a run to make it 2-1 CHS. An infield hit by Wittmeyer and more aggressive base-running upped the lead to 5-1 and the Indians were off and running—literally.
On Saturday morning, Colville steamrolled Cascade 21-0 (five innings), collecting 18 hits in the process.
It was a game to fatten up batting averages. Urhausen was 3-3, Kellum, 2-4, Madonna, 2-3, Rogers, 2-3, Cote 2-2, Carr, 2-2, Cabbage, 3-4 and Wittmeyer, 2-4.
The championship game was another match-up against the most dominating pitcher in the tournament, Connell’s Ashley Thompson.
Thompson, also one of the tournament’s top hitters, was walked three times in the Eagles’ 7-5 semifinal win over Lakeside and three more times in the Colville game.
Thompson, a University of Washington softball verbal, is lanky and imposing at 6-2.
“We know she’s tough,” Sumner said. “But she mostly tries to get hitters out with her rise ball, so we did a quick rise ball visualization exercise that was extremely effective.”
Colville touched Thompson and the Eagles for a first inning run. Kellum beat out an infield single, stole second base and came home on a Madonna single to rightfield.
In the bottom of the first inning, Connell got runners on first and second with no outs before an infield force and a Rogers’ strikeout.
Centerfielder Cote then showed off her strong arm, gunning down the potential tying run at the plate for the third out after a single up the middle.
“That was a great throw,” Sumner said. “We rushed the field there like it was the end of the game. At that point, I knew that each and every player wanted that game as much as I did.”
Dropped fly ball gives Connell the lead
In the bottom of the second, Connell picked up a pair of singles with one out. After a Rogers’ strikeout, the Indians looked to be out of the inning on a fly ball to the outfield. But the ball was dropped and the Eagles plated two runs to take a 2-1 lead.
In the top of third inning, Colville tied the game at 2-2 when Kellum drew a leadoff walk, stole second base and scored on a Connell infield error.
In the bottom of the third, Kellum started a double play at shortstop that got the Indians out of potential trouble.
Colville missed an opportunity to retake the lead in the fifth. Wittmeyer beat out an infield chopper for a single. Ditto for Cabbage on a groundball to third base.
The Indians were in business with runners on first and second base and no one out. After a Thompson strikeout, a double steal put runners on second and third. Then, with two outs, Thompson made a play in the circle that could only be made by a pitcher who happens to be at least 6-2. She leaped and snagged a high chopper that had centerfield and RBI written all over it and threw to first for the third out.
Urhausen put a jolt into a Thompson fastball in the top of the eighth. But the deep fly to left-centerfield was hauled in by the Connell centerfielder, who had the ball crawl up her arm after running the ball down. She held on and so did the Eagles.
Colville had to pull off a little defensive magic in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Rogers hit the lead-off hitter and the second hitter of the inning for Connell laced a double to the right-field fence. After a pop-out to shortstop, Rogers issued an intentional walk to load the bases.
A groundball to Urhausen forced the second out at the plate and Rogers and the Indians escaped when Cabbage handled a groundball at first base.
“Holding them that inning was huge,” Sumner said. “I will always remember that.”
It’s unlikely that Sumner will soon forget the bottom of the ninth either.
Tie-breaker scenario in the ninth
In the ninth, the game moved to the international tie-breaker rules, putting the last batter of the previous inning on second base.
“The dumbest rule in softball…the Kansas City Tie-breaker,” Sumner said ruefully. “I get it for tourney ball when you’re on a timeline, but for a championship game? Really?
Madonna started the inning at second base. After Rogers was called out when a bunt attempt hit her outside the box, Cote singled. Madonna held at third base. A Carr groundout scored Madonna to give CHS a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Rogers immediately walked Thompson for the third time in the game.
Sawyer then drove Rogers’ 0-2 pitch past the diving Kellum at shortstop and Mathis and Thompson raced home with the tying and winning runs.