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May 30, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Triple Play: Final softball notes for 2013

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s all over! What a great softball season, rain and all!

The state tournaments were something else! Congratulations to all of the champions – Arlington (4A), Kamiakin (3A), Selah (2A), Connell (1A), Toutle Lake (2B) and Colton (1B).

To start this final edition of Triple Play for 2013, I want to share the news about Jerry Millsap’s decision to retire as Holy Names coach after 18 seasons. I’ve got some comments from him, and a few career highlights. I then will focus on the 4A and 3A state tournaments. I checked in via e-mail with the coaches of a few of the local teams who fared well, and will share their thoughts.

I’ll link to the tournament brackets in each classification, then wrap up with the latest national rankings one last time.

So, it’s time for that first pitch, one last time:

Millsap made Holy Names better and better, in many ways

I’ve always thought Jerry Millsap was one of the nice guys and have enjoyed covering his teams over the years. Jerry has never been big on records, but the Cougars had a great one this season, going 16-0 in the Metro League and 24-5 overall, making their sixth state appearance.

Our data base only goes back to 2008-09 and shows Holy Names an impressive 71-7 in Metro play during that span, 110-30 overall. Those numbers speak for themselves. When I e-mailed Jerry about the season, and rumor I had heard about his retirement, this was his reply:

“I’ve always said, “It’s not the wins and losses we seek, it’s the unique journey we take each spring that bonds us together.”  So this season was great just like so many other years with wonderful student-athletes.  We won the WIAA 3A All-Academic award (3.82) for the third time in six years and that is more special to me than being number one.

We were excited to return to the State Tourney and had high expectations, but losing to the eventual champion blunted the disappointment. We played our best and have no regrets.  The Holy Names student-athletes have crammed much into this season and Friday being prom night for six seniors was just another hurdle to adjust to.  Holy Names athletes are challenged in so many ways throughout their four years it was only fitting it end with a dash to the Space Needle for prom.

Future: There is plenty left in the cupboard at HNA and it will be Holy Names and Bainbridge again battling for the Metro crown.  You never know who will walk in the door at Holy Names, but you can always depend on them being great student-athletes.

Yes, I’m calling it quits.  I’ll be 70 next year and there are some body pains that need attention.  Also, Barbara and I are raising our grandson and he will be a senior next year.  I want to spend more time with him before he leaves for college.  Holy Names is a fabulous place to coach and the parents are as wonderful as the players.

What do I remember most:  Besides the times I have spent with the players and parents there are two things.  In 1996 the first fast-pitch game for Holy Names was against West Seattle, and we lost 24-2.  I said “I think we can do better.”  The second thing was sitting in the dugout in 2009 during the 3A state championship game and it was thrilling.  I could not believe it was happening, I had to pinch myself to believe it was real.

We did do better.”

Very well put! He and Barbara (who keeps a great scorebook!) celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary in January.

When I asked him more about his grandson, he shared more background that I will pass along to you – both a little sad and very inspirational:

“My grandson’s name is Peter Krueger. He played baseball and basketball and was very good. But around 13 he caught a passion for the guitar and formed a band two years ago called Meteor vs Dinosaur. I think they are fabulous (grandpa talking).

Since you asked about my grandson I have to tell you about his mother, my daughter. She and I coached at Holy Names in 1996 and 1997. Then in 1998 she moved to California and was killed in an automobile accident when Peter was 2 1/2. Peter had two broken legs and numerous injuries, plus the fact he lost his mother and father. We have raised him since the accident and he is a wonderful young man.


Wendy, my daughter, taught me how to teach/coach young ladies with positive energy and nothing negative. It’s when I realized that our roles had reversed. Wendy became the teacher and I was the student. I’ve followed her lead ever since.”

Lastly, I asked Bainbridge coach Liz McCloskey to share some thoughts about Jerry, since the two have had a great rivalry over the years. Here’s what she sent in an e-mail:

“Jerry has put together a great program at Holy Names over the course of the last 18 years; whomever takes over will have big shoes to fill. Bainbridge and Holy Names have had a good rivalry over the last decade. We have always enjoyed playing them; each time we play it is a good competitive game for each of us. It’s always hard for any coach to finally make the decision to walk away; he has put in 18 years of hard work and dedication to build the Holy Names program into a top contender in the state.”

Best wishes, Jerry and Barbara – enjoy retirement!

Arlington Eagles sore to the top in 4A

Let’s start with the complete tournament bracket, which you can find here.

And a huge shout-out to the Arlington Eagles, who captured their first-ever state softball title! It came as no big surprise to me. I mentioned last week I thought the return of pitcher/hitter Ronnie Ladines made them a legitimate threat and she had an amazing tournament to lead them to the top (she was our female athlete of the week). You can read the tournament story here.

I asked coach Dan Eng to comment on the tourney, the season and how the future looks, and here’s his response:

“The Arlington fastpitch softball team had a very consistent season from start to finish.  The first half had the team written off by everyone and off the radar because of Ronnie’s injury and not knowing if she would even return and when.   The rest of the team played on without her and half way through the season, it was still 10 wins with 2 losses and tied for second place in the tough Wesco North League.  At that point we were the only team to have beaten the first place team Snohomish.  The leader at that point was Hayley Fields, who pitched and lead the team in hitting with close to a 600 batting average.  Even with a 12 game hitting streak and pitching solidly,  Haley finally ended her hitting streak at 21 continuous games — quite a accomplishment with the pressure for a lead off hitter.

The second half saw the return of Ronnie, which the first 3 games was a struggle, as her control, strength and stamina was not there.  Over the course of the rest of the regular season, she got stronger and her pitching stamina continue to last longer and longer into the game.  The team continue to improve with her added presence, as we started to become a even more power hitting team, with her consistent bat in the three spot.  She ended the regular season pitching at 6 wins and 1 loss, giving the team a 16 win 3 loss season going into the District Playoffs

The team players all contributed during the regular season, with someone or several raising to the occasion each game and executing the fundamental of the game.  District and State saw the peaking of Hayden Fields in hitting, besides her solid 3rd base play.  It all started in the first game against Kamiak, where she hit the first of her 4 home runs and accounted for 13 rbi’s in the seven game run.  Along with Ronnie’s dominate pitching in the last 6 continuous games (Districts and State), pitching 39 innings, facing 152 batters, striking out 75 batters (48 swinging), Hayley Fields hitting at a 600 pace, Katelyn McDonald hitting at a 430 pace and most important person — Lynsey Amundson figuring out what pitches to call against all the good hitters for the opposing team and being the solid wall behind the plate.  Four of those seniors have all played together since little league, with 3 playing on the same travel ball team.

Next year will be a challenge, as all the power pitching and majority of power hitting leaves with these 4 seniors.  Pitching and catching will all be new and coming out of the J.V. team.  The rest of the team will be really challenged defensively, as they will be given more opportunities to field the ball.  Offensively, they will have to put together more continuous group hitting streaks to move runners along.

A 500 season next year would be exciting and a pleasant surprise, even making again to Districts would be the main goal for next years team.”

Of course, Woodinville was the defending champion and the overall favorite coming in. The Falcons made another great run before losing in the semifinals to Camas, 2-0 – their first in-state loss of the year. They bounced back to eliminate KingCo-rival Newport, 13-2, then fell to a hot Tahoma team, 7-4, to place fourth.

No shame in that, for sure.

Here’s what first-year coach Dani Weir had to say:

“We came up shorter than we wanted and shorter than I believe we could have been but in these short seasons and even shorter tournaments, it’s all about peaking at the right time.  We glimmered, we had strong moments but we couldn’t find our consistency this weekend and we ran out of innings in a couple of games.  There was some impressive softball being played all weekend, a lot of strong competition.  Nonetheless, I am so proud of what these girls have been able to accomplish over the season.  These seniors will leave as some of the most decorated athletes to come through Woodinville.  As for our returners, they will enter next season with 5 state tournament games under their belt.  They know what it’s all about now - the atmosphere, the competition, the expectations, what it takes to get there - and it’s left them with a hunger for more!”

As happy as I was for Arlington, I was almost equally elated for the young Tahoma Bears, who went 5-1 to finish third and take home the school’s first state fastpitch trophy (they won a slowpitch title in 1988).

After losing 7-5 in the opening round to Richland (which reached the semis before falling 6-0 to Arlington), Tahoma won five straight – avenging that loss to Richland, 4-2, in the game that assured the team of a trophy (and sending the Bombers home without one).

Coach Tom Bainter said he was extremely proud of his team and happy for the four seniors “who left with a winning experience.”

He had an e-mail exchange with another reporter, Q & A style, and passed it along to me, so I’ll share most of it (I’m not including the list of stat highlights, though, sorry):

“Q: What does this third place finish mean to the girls, especially your seniors?

A: Somebody asked me if 2nd place would have been better…and after careful thought I came up with this: only one team is #1 and about 80 4A teams weren’t. we won 5 straight games and left Spokane winning our last game on the field. The feeling for the Seniors and underclassmen is at an all-time high and besides winning it all, I couldn’t imagine anything better.

Q: How can you use this experience to continue to build the program? 

A: Losing four quality Seniors is tough, but every year each team has to deal with new challenges to build unity within its program. From our end, the remaining 13 underclassmen experienced something really special that they can build on for the future. Getting into games with the best players throughout the state to challenge them offensively and defensively can assist to raise the skill-set of the individuals and the team.

Q: What does this state tournament performance — winning five straight after losing the first, especially beating teams Tahoma lost to — say about this team? 

A: Losing the 1st game out of the shoot was tough, but we only had an hour to regroup to play two more games. Going into it, I knew that attrition and endurance both physically and mentally would be key to get past our previous runs during state. I am so proud of what these ladies did for the final 5 games and to knock off the defending state champ in the consolation game was exhilarating.”

It was also a solid tournament for Newport, which was the No. 3 seed out of KingCo and had to win a play-in game against Snohomish to even qualify. It was their first-ever trip to the 4A tourney (the Knights made the 3A field in 2002 and ’08). They pulled off the biggest first-round stunner by upending previously unbeaten Emerald Ridge, 10-9. They trailed 6-1 after four innings before rallying.

Newport then fell to Richland in the quarterfinals, 13-2, but bounced back to eliminate Bellarmine Prep (7-3) and Beamer (9-8). One more victory, and the Knights would have secured their first state trophy. But them came across nemesis Woodinville and fell one game short.

They only hand out four trophies in softball and in essence Newport tied for fifth with Richland. Hannah Owings, in her first year as head coach, shared these comments:

“I was so pleased with our State tournament.  This was the first ever 4A appearance for Newport so it was a big deal for the program.  Getting to state was the overall goal and we did it.  The coaches had an internal goal of getting to Saturday play at State and we certainly achieved that.  We are so proud of our team!  That first win against Emerald Ridge was HUGE.  They hadn’t been beaten all year (26-0) and I don’t think many people gave us a shot.  We went behind early (6-1) and fought back inning by inning to win 10-9.  Every player contributed in that game, up and down the line-up – - a solid team win like that is great way to start a tournament.  We got beat up a little by Richland, but came right back in game 3 with a win against Bellarmine.  We grabbed one more win Saturday morning against Beamer (again, a team I think folks expected we couldn’t beat) and then ran out of gas a bit for our fifth and final game vs. Woodinville.   

Kat Wood pitched all five games for us in the circle and was an absolute warrior.  You could tell how beat she was but she kept her composure and just worked through the games inning by inning.  She had a good weekend at the plate as well.

Indiana Coxey was the linchpin of our defense behind the plate and held us in every game, helping to keep Kat focused and working batters.  Indiana was a monster at the plate last weekend too and had an amazing final showing as a senior.  We moved her to the lead off spot after the first game, due to a missing starter, and she excelled in that role.

Bridget Raftery also had an amazing weekend both defensively and at the plate.  She ripped the ball, providing some important RBI’s and, more importantly in my eyes, held us down at third base.  She made no less than 5 or 6 diving catches and plays at third base, taking away runs and opportunities.  She went out with a bang.  Kaitlin Sahlinger also hit some dingers and had a good weekend at the plate, getting herself on base quite a bit.

Our other two seniors, Sarah Stochel and Torey Tokita, also came up big.  Sarah jump-started our offense in the Emerald Ridge game with a solo home run to put us on the board.  That was huge for us mentally and got us going.  Torey moved into a starting role in left field for the state tournament and did an outstanding job defensively.  The four seniors certainly left a legacy behind and were instrumental in the development of this program. 

The girls did everything we asked of them this year to continually improve and put themselves in a position to compete and win.  They worked hard every day and had fun while they were doing it….a great combination.

Moving into next year, we have big shoes to fill, particularly with Indiana and Bridget graduating.  With that said, we have a solid core of returners (10) who have had the benefit of experiencing success and knowing what to expect from their experience with Newport Softball.  We will come out working hard and looking to get better every day, very similar to this year.

For me, I think you spend a good chunk of time during your first year figuring out your players, setting a tone, and working to establish your own program.  I think my staff and I were able to achieve good results this year with that and will be in a good position to move the program forward next year.  I am looking forward to building something great at Newport.”

Lastly, I reached out to Beamer coach Brian Hering. The Titans had never been to state before, but gave a good accounting of themselves – especially considering they have just one senior in the lineup. They opened with a 9-2 win over Bothell before becoming one of the Arlington victims, 12-0. They stayed alive by beating Lake Stevens, 4-0, advancing to the second day.

There, Newport ended Beamer’s title chances.

Hering gave me a call, rather than responding by e-mail, and had this to say about his team’s showing: “I was excited. We did what we wanted to do as far as finish in the top half. We wanted to prove we belonged there, and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

He had said during the season that he felt next year would be even better, although he’ll have to replace senior catcher Halle Colson, and Hering reiterated that.

“I think next year is going to be our year,” he said. “I think we can make a deep run net year with everyone we’ve got coming back.”

I had hoped to get a couple of comments from Emerald Ridge coach Derick Nelons, but didn’t hear back from him. He spoke with a reporter at The Puyallup Herald after the disappointing finish, and you can read that short story here.

It was indeed a great season for the Jaguars and a pair of one-run losses to end it should not  diminish the overall picture.

Meadowdale leads list of local 3A finishers

I was at the 3A tournament in Lacey from start to finish, and the complete bracket is here.

I remember past tournaments where pitching dominated, but that generally wasn’t the case last weekend. There were some wild, wild games.

From a readership standpoint, I’m always excited when we have a pair of local teams in the championship game. Or at least one. So I admit I was disappointed when Meadowdale lost in the semifinals to Kamiakin of Kennewick, 2-1 – and that is meant as no disrespect to Kamiakin, which made a great run back to the top by going on and defeating Prairie, 12-7.

Talk about wild. Read my game story here.

Both teams were very young and I’d expect them to contend again next season.

Meadowdale had come from behind to upend Enumclaw in the quarterfinals the night before, 10-8. After losing to Kamiakin, the Mavs rebounded to eliminate Juanita, 4-2, then earned the third-place trophy with a 7-2 victory over University of Spokane.

So, their only loss in 3A all season was to the eventual state champion.

Coach Dennis Hopkins is a man of few words, as a general rule, and here’s what he had to say in an e-mail:

“Sandy the season we had was the best just a little short in the end; I guess the heart-attack kids ran out Saturday morning; not bad though: 1st in districts 3rd in state; also (I) coached one of the best games ever us against Enumclaw; that’s one for the record books for me. As far as next year goes I would like to say we have a good shot at getting back to state; I will just have to see how hard the players work on their outside teams .then wait and see what who shows up in the spring.”

Meadowdale loses just one senior, but a good one in pitcher Alyssa Reuble.

Speaking of Enumclaw, I had to get a reaction from coach Mike Eckhart after the Hornets’ two stunning losses – stunning because they came on late home runs. They opened with a 5-2 win over Interlake, then led Meadowdale 8-5 in the 10th inning before the fireworks started.

Check out my story here.

That home run was a big blow, but not as big as the two grand slam homers Enumclaw gave up in successive innings the following game, a 12-8 loss to Mountlake Terrace. But the Hornets are young, too, and should have a chance for a different ending next year.

Here’s what Eckhart had to say, in particular about that Meadowdale game and the prospects for next season:

“Yeah, it was a great tourney. The girls were pretty devastated with that last hit in the 10th inning. They had their hearts set on winning State. They did everything right, MHS just did a little better. That’s fastpitch.

I think we will come back even stronger next year. We were still young this year and the players learned a lot. As they say pitching isn’t everything but it’s about 95% and our pitchers are young and getting better every year.”

It was another solid showing for Bainbridge and Juanita, which basically tied for fifth.

Few expected Juanita to be a true contender after losing pitcher Allison Rhodes (now at Notre Dame). But the Rebels won the tough Sea-King District tournament and blanked BonneyLake in the first round at state, 2-0. They then lost to Prairie before eliminating Interlake (11-3) and Shorecrest (3-2).

Coach Kristian Dahl had these comments:

“This season was a season of surprises; the expectation of our team this year was very low nobody thought we could get out of our league let alone win the league and districts giving us a number 1 seed from our district to state. We had a number of seniors that stepped up for us this season: Cami Pettengill, Molly Steck, Katie Kent, Dani Faist, Abbie Oswald, Johanna Smith. Without their leadership and game play this season would not have been possible. Our biggest surprise came from Milly Kawabata who was our hands down number 1 pitcher who did a phenomenal job keeping hitters off balance all season, we hitched up our wagon to Milly and said if you lead we will follow and she did so without hesitation. I’m so incredibly proud of this team, I can’t put into words what they mean to me!”

Liz McCloskey was also proud of her Bainbridge team, which scored a ton of runs before running out of gas against University Saturday, 8-0. U-Hi was the only team to beat the Spartans at state as they also met in the first round and the Titans pulled out a tight one, 11-10.

McCloskey had this to say:

“This season was great, we hit some speed bumps along the way but we were able to overcome them and make our 7th straight State Tournament appearance. I think we had a great showing at this year’s state tournament. 49 runs is a lot to put up on the board in two days, especially at the state tournament. While it’s disappointing to not come home with a trophy, we are young and will be back next year. The foundation myself and my assistance coaches have established is pushing these kids to better themselves on and off the field.”

I wanted to give Mountlake Terrace some kudos. The Hawks were certainly entertaining during their four-game stretch at state!

When asked about the tournament, season overall and prospects for 2014, coach Shannon Rasmussen sent these comments:

“It was quite the tournament and it was definitely a season (and ending) that I will never forget!

Regarding our season, we had quite a few ups and downs, losing close games to good teams and then bouncing back and beating the teams we needed to beat. Losing so many close games to teams like Meadowdale, Glacier Peak and Shorecrest was frustrating to a point, but it also assured us that we were a good team and gave us some confidence going into districts, it seemed as though everyone was expecting Meadowdale, Glacier Peak, Shorecrest and Marysville-Pilchuck to battle for the 3 state births so to a point, we were the underdogs and had nothing to lose. I think our first two games of districts was the first time that I really saw our team play to their full potential. They never gave up and battled up until the last out of the game and were able to secure the state birth.

When we got to state, we wanted to just go out there and play the way we knew we could. Losing the first game the way we did was disappointing, but the girls were able to come back and fight to beat Bonney Lake. The last game on Friday night had a different feeling to it and at one point I was thinking it was going to be our last game. The girls apparently didn’t want to be done and a few of the girls (Hannah Baisch and Rene Bos) came up with some of the biggest hits they had all year to help us secure the win. After going 2-1 on Friday with 8 homeruns (after coming into state with only 15 total), 2 of which were grand slams in the last game, I was speechless! We not only proved it to ourselves that we deserved to be there but I think we proved it to a lot of other people who were surprised we made it as far as we did. Saturdays game definitely wasn’t the result that we wanted, but I couldn’t have been happier with the way our team played and literally battled every game, every out and every pitch. They left everything that they had out on those fields and I couldn’t be any prouder to be their coach.

I am also extremely happy with how well represented Wesco south was at the tournament. To have 3 teams from not just our league, but from our division in the top 8 teams in the state speaks volumes for how tough our league was.

As for the future, I’m really not sure what it’s going to look like. We are losing 3 great senior leaders this year in Rene Bos, Kelsey Watson and Hannah Fickle and they leave some pretty big holes to fill in our lineup. We are fortunate to be bringing back 3 of our top hitters in Maddy Kristjanson, Hannah Baisch and Hannah Wilcox as well as 5 other girls who have contributed in huge ways this year. We didn’t have a JV team this year (we haven’t had one for a few years now) so the girls will need to be recruiting friends to help fill out our team. There are a couple of incoming freshman and sophomores we are hoping to get to turn out next year and we are hoping for big things from them.

Lastly, I want to mention Shorecrest, which bounced back from the first-round loss to Holy Names (9-1) with a lot of heart. The Scotts took down Kelso (11-10) and Peninsula (3-1) before falling short against Juanita.

As coach Jackie Berg summed things up:

“This year our goal was to get to state, and my girls accomplished that. They did an amazing job throughout the season, and that helped them at districts and state. My girls were excited for the opportunity to compete at state. We had some very tough teams we were playing against, and each game brought on new challenges.

Four years ago, I was given the opportunity to coach at Shorecrest, and in my four years there, there have been many changes to the program, but what I am most proud about are all my seniors. How they have brought the program to where it is today. We started off going to district four years ago, because we were one of the only 3A teams in our league, and this year we made it to districts and state because of how the girls played and their determination of getting there. This season, we had a few set backs, a few girls getting sick, injured, or both and our line up suffered because of it, however the girls did let it phase them. They accepted whatever role I put them in, and achieved success. I am proud to have coached the 15 girls at Shorecrest because of their heart, dedication, and desire to better themselves.

Next year I will be returning 10 players; I am loosing 5 seniors, including both of my pitchers. I have a couple underclassmen who will hopefully step up to the plate and be our pitchers. I am loosing a few key bats, but my underclassmen’s bats are coming along quite fine, and I don’t anticipate we will have any hardship at the plate. Our defense was strong this year, and all but my second baseman will be returning, but I am confident in who we have that will step into her shoes.

The other state softball tournaments

Here are the other tournament brackets: 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B.

The 2A tourney includes a trio of SPSL teams, but none took home a trophy. White River had the best run, going 2-2, while Fife won one game and Sumner was two-and-out.

I had talked a little about Eatonville and Seattle Christian in last week’s blog, so want to update you on how they did in the 1A tourney – both went 1-2.

The latest national rankings

Woodinville dropped out of the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 after sitting at No. 11 last week. Connell jumped up to No. 14. The complete rankings are here.

But in the NFCA poll, which you can find here, Woodinville actually took two steps up to No. 5. It says the records are current through May 28, but Woodinville’s isn’t (still shows just the one loss to Medford). Connell sits at No. 19. 

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