My plan for this week’s softball blog was to highlight Redmond and Puyallup, and do the third segment of Triple Play on some odds and ends involving out-of-area teams, including a look at the Mid-Columbia Conference race between Kamiakin and Richland and the strong run Granite Falls is having in the Cascade Conference.
Then Garfield beat Roosevelt 2-1 yesterday.
That got me to thinking when the last time might have been that Garfield won a KingCo game. I e-mailed coach Tanya Slimp about it and she checked with a booster club member who had a daughter on the 2008 team and he remembered at least one victory over Franklin, which was in its final year in KingCo before moving back to the Metro League.
I did some checking, and sure enough, the Bulldogs split with their rivals that season, winning 20-12 on the next-to-last game of the season – nearly six years ago to the day (it was May 5, 2008). Franklin had won 23-22 earlier in the season.
So, I’m switching gears a little and am devoting a slice of the notebook to Garfield. In fact, that’s where I’ll start, then move on to Redmond and Puyallup.
I’ll get you those other updates next week.
No more ‘basketball scores’ in Garfield softball
When Tanya Slimp decided to stat coaching softball three years ago, she looked for a challenge.
She found one at Garfield, which had a history of lopsided scores and occasional forfeits due to a lack of players.
“I looked at their stats and stuff and saw there wasn’t a whole lot of wins, so to me that spelled a lot of opportunity to come into a program and give them what I had and try to build something from there,” Slimp said.
She spent time with Seattle Central Little League Softball and the Seattle Spice Softball Club.
“I got out in the community and started spreading the word about Garfield,” Slimp said. “So, we’ve just slowly started to grow.”
So much so that the school was able to add a junior varsity team for the first time in a long while.
Slimp played in a successful high-school program at South Kitsap, and also played club, although her sport of choice at WSU wound up being rugby. She had helped coach some Babe Ruth baseball in the past and did some softball training and camps, but this is her first head coaching job.
And it was a culture shock at first.
“Coming out of South (Kitsap), we were a powerhouse at the time,” Slimp said. “I’d never seen basketball scores for softball scores. It was shock. But it’s there. We’ve just got to get the kids to come out and then it’s a lot of development. Now it’s awesome because we’re starting to see seventh and eighth graders come to our games.”
It also helps that the team now has a home field, Garfield Playfield, instead of having to travel (and pay for parking) at Bobby Morris Playfield.
But let’s get to yesterday’s game. Sophomore pitcher Jace Conroy tossed a two-hitter, striking out five with just one walk. She also hit one batter, who ended up scoring Roosevelt’s lone run in the top of the first inning.
Conroy wound up retiring 16 straight until a one-out single in the sixth.
Garfield tied the game in the fourth on a throwing error. Then with two outs in the fifth, sophomore catcher Kaela Jackson delivered an RBI single to center, driving home Saffron Dominguez from second base.
When shortstop Sarah Whitney – one of just three seniors on the team – threw out the final Roosevelt runner in the seventh, the celebration was on.
“It was crazy,” Slimp said. “Our seniors, we all got a little emotional. My shortstop jumped on me and gave me a big hug. It was a big deal, because these last couple of years have been kind of tough and they’ve been trying to just get that one conference once.
“The younger girls didn’t really understand it as much. They were happy that we won and they knew it had been a while, but the seniors, the girls who have been around at least a year or so, everybody kind of broke down a little bit. It really was exciting. We gave the game balls to the seniors. We had a little pow-wow out there and I don’t know who was more emotional, me or them.”
The Bulldogs didn’t make it easy on themselves as they struggled offensively, managing just six hits, but they were errorless in the field.
“Our defense was flat out amazing,” Slimp said. “Our offense was struggling, so they had to fight, and they just dug deep and made it happen.”
Conroy is the team’s main pitcher and the coach calls her “a trooper.”
The Bulldogs, who lost 8-7 to Roosevelt the first time around, have six more KingCo games remaining – including a rematch with Newport, which won just 5-1 earlier this month. They hope to scratch out another win or two, and then the playing field levels out more next season, when Garfield will be part of the 3A Metro League.
“We are extremely excited about that,” Slimp said, “not just because of travel, but it’s going to balance some things out.”
Redmond gets reminder about playing in the now
Like a lot of coaches, Redmond’s Parris Mamon preaches the one-game-at-a-time mentality.
He emphasized that yesterday morning when we spoke about the team’s success and ultimate goals. He started by talking about taking care of business in KingCo 4A play and the team being in good position for the KingCo tournament.
But what about state, coach?
“Obviously, that’s a goal, to get to state,” Mamon said when prodded. “But we’ve got to stay focused and play one game at a time. We’ve got to make it through this tough KingCo, and our division is no joke. We can’t look too far ahead.”
And as if the Mustangs needed a reminder, they wound up dropping their first league game of the season later that evening, 7-6 to Bothell – a team that had blanked 6-0 three weeks earlier.
It was just the fifth league win of the season for the Cougars, who are 5-4 in the Crest Division. Redmond still leads at 8-1, followed by Eastlake (7-3) and Woodinville (6-3).
Mamon made no excuses about the game when I called him about it this morning.
“Coach (Rob) Luckey had a great game plan and they executed it,” he said. “Hats off to them. They played a great game and played great defense. Their pitcher (Julia Warner) hit her spots. They were better than us last night.”
The Mustangs, who had won 11 in a row since a season-opening loss to Lake Washington, managed just six hits – including a pair of home runs by Kaija Gibson and one by pitcher Emily Rockhill.
It could wind up being a good thing for Redmond, although Mamon could have done without it.
“It doesn’t hurt to lose in season like that, but it always stings,” he said. “It showed us we have some things to work on to get better.”
With all but one starter back from last year’s solid team, the Mustangs were expected to be the team to beat in KingCo 4A this season. They tied with Inglemoor for second place in the Crest Division last season behind unbeaten Woodinville, then went 1-2 at the KingCo tournament – losing to two teams who went on to state, Woodinville and Newport.
Mamon, in his fifth season, has never taken a Redmond team to state, but this could be the season. The Mustangs last qualified in 2008 and ’09.
Rockhill has been the rock of the young team and one of only two seniors. But Mamon calls her “Doc” because she missed her sophomore season with a back injury. Plus, her mom is a nurse, and her initials are ER.
“It was fitting I call her Doc,” Mamon said.
Rockhill, who pitched the majority of last year’s games, is now 10-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 79 innings.
“She hits her spots and has good command of all of her pitches,” Mamon said. “She’s pretty crafty.”
And she’s a good hitter, too, batting .405 with 21 RBI.
Gibson, a sophomore shortstop, has been outstanding. She’s hitting .659 with 18 extra-base hits (including six homers), good for a 1.463 slugging percentage. She also leads the team in runs scored (26) and RBI (24) while going 13-for-13 in stolen bases.
“She’s probably the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached,” Mamon said. “She’s got great power in all directions and great speed. She’s really playing at a high level right now.”
Junior Taty Forbes, who starts in center, has impressive numbers, too. She’s batting .623 with 22 runs scored and has not been thrown out in 26 stolen-base opportunities.
“She is lightning quick,” Mamon said. “She can pretty much steal on anybody.”
The Mustangs took a big step toward the league title with a 9-2 win over Woodinville last Friday – Mamon’s first victory over the Falcons. The two teams meet again on May 14 to close out the regular season.
But Redmond was five other KingCo games to worry about before then. And you can be sure Mamon will have them doing just that.
Sour ending has Puyallup primed for success
Puyallup’s season ended on a sour note last year.
And a controversial one.
The Vikings thought they had earned a state berth with what appeared to be a win over Olympia in the bottom of the seventh inning in a West Central 4A District consolation game. With runners at second and third, Kaela Ingram hit a looping single into shallow left field for what would have been the winning RBI. But the runner at second wound up bumping the shortstop – who didn’t appear to have any kind of play on the ball – and ultimately was called out for interference. That was after much deliberation between the umpires and, in the end, a ruling by the tournament umpire in chief who didn’t see the play.
“We thought the game was over,” coach Tony Batinovich said. “It was just the weirdest thing ever.”
And in his 22 years as head coach, he’s seen a lot of weird plays.
The game went into extra innings and Olympia ultimately won.
Ingram was the only senior starter on that team and the returning players haven’t forgotten how things ended.
“I think that left a sour taste in a few of these kids’ mouths because they thought they had qualified and thought they had made it, which was their goal, obviously,” Batinovich said. “To have it taken away, I think it’s motivated some of those kids.”
.Puyallup hasn’t been to state since 2010, but that short drought could definitely end this year. Those motivated returning players, combined with a group of talented freshmen, are enjoying and outstanding season thus far. The Vikings lead the SPSL 4A South Division at 12-0 and are 14-1 overall, with the only loss coming in the third game of the year against Fife, 4-1.
Three freshmen in particular have been key – Natalie Joyner (shortstop), Kennedy Robillard (first or second) and Brooklyn Bartelson (third). Bartelson is the sister of sophomore Jordyn Bartelson, who generally starts at second, and played wherever needed early in the season before settling in at third.
“Talk about a consummate utility player,” Batinovich said, noting Brooklyn has caught and played short, second, first and left field.
Both Bartelsons are batting better than .320 in SPSL play and Joyner is carrying a team-best .586 average. Robillard led the team in RBIs for the first month of the season and is batting .394 in league.
But it is senior pitcher Marissa Miller who is the team’s catalyst.
“She has just been lights out,” Batinovich said. “She has been so much tougher this year. She’s made the conversion of being someone who just wanted to throw hard to someone who realized you have to hit your spots and you have to get ahead. She worked hard in the off-season on her pitches and has a better, stronger mental attitude than she’s had in the past, and that’s been big for us.”
Miller, who will play at PLU next season, is 11-0 in league play with a 0,75 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 65 innings against just 10 walks. Opponents are batting just .147 against her.
And she’s helping herself at the plate, too, with a .355 average – including a home run that helped complete a two-game sweep of Beamer, which was the division favorite coming in.
The other two seniors, catcher Kylie Perez (.444 average, team-best 15 RBI) and first baseman Taylor Rutherford (.444) have also been key.
And none of them have forgotten how last season ended.