Lake Washington jumps to the forefront in this edition of Triple Play, my weekly blog dedicated to prep softball.
The Kangs are enjoying another standout season and deserve the spotlight. The second segment focuses on two powerhouses from Eastern Washington, Richland and Kamiakin, which square off in a big doubleheader Friday to determine the Mid-Columbia Conference championship.
Both could win state titles later this month, Richland in 4A and Kamiakin in 3A. Kamiakin, in fact, is the two-time defending 3A champ.
The third portion of the notebook focuses on Granite Falls, a strong 2A team that’s a little out of our coverage area. But one of the Tigers’ coach reached out to me and so I figured, why not? They play in the Cascade Conference, which includes locals like Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest. And LW could wind up playing them in the Northwest District tournament.
As an added bonus, you’ll get some links to tournament brackets, with leagues nearing post-season play.
And one final note before I jump it – Puyallup is now ranked No. 24 in the nation in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, which you can find here. Cool for the Vikings. No Washington teams are found in the NFCA poll, which is here.
LW focuses on the only stat the matters – wins
Ask Traci Tawney for some stat leaders on her Lake Washington team, and she’ll probably tell you she’s working on them. That’s the response I got Tuesday.
While some coaches love to crunch numbers, and us media types eat them up, Tawney would just as soon not look at them, or have her players pour over them.
“I don’t like stats messing with your head, when you know the numbers,” she said with a laugh. “I definitely don’t want to mess with the girls heads. Those are the ones we fight to keep straight.”
But she knows she’ll need them when pitching players for the All-KingCo 3A/2A team, as well as all-area, so she’s willing to compile them.
For now, though, we’ll have to take her word that the team’s top hitter is likely junior pitcher Maddie Brown, who bats in the No. 3 hole and also plays some first base. Or second baseman Cori Meyers, LW’s leadoff hitter and only senior.
Meyers is one of several left-handers in the lineup and a great slap-hitter with jets. Another speedster is Danielle Durbin, a sophomore who attends Lakeside but lives in the LW service area and tried out for the team because Lakeside doesn’t have a softball team this spring. She’s been a plus for the Kangs, according to Tawney, who often uses her as a pinch runner but sometimes uses her at second or in the outfield.
Brown shares the pitching duties with freshman Tori Bevens, who can also play first or in the outfield.
Their stats? Oh, never mind.
“They both have a good amount of strikeouts,” Tawney said. “They’re working on their control and getting first-pitch strikes.”
Brown was the Kangs’ primary pitcher last season, when they shared the KingCo title with Juanita. LW, a Class 2A school (that will return to 3A this fall), then won its opener in the Northwest 2A District tournament against Anacortes before dropping a pair of one-run contests and failing to qualify for state.
That was especially disappointing because the Kangaroos had qualified for the 3A state tournament the year before after getting hot at the Sea-King District tournament. But they were young last season with just one senior starter.
“They had some nerves,” said Tawney, a former Mount Si and Washington player who took over as head coach last spring after one year as an assistant. “It was pretty heartbreaking to be in both games and to not get it done, but it was a good lesson.”
The 3-2 loss to Lakewood was especially frustrating as LW hit the ball hard – 17 of the 21 outs were grounders – but right at people.
“They fielded like a champion that day,” Tawney said of the Cougars.
Shortstop Taylor Ferleman, now at Central Washington, was the lone senior starter. Sophomore Hannah Walker and freshman Olivia Smallman not trade off at short and third, where Walker started last year.
LW won this year’s KingCo title outright at 13-1. Brown “got gritty,” as Tawney puts it, with a 1-0 win over Juanita last week to help clinch it. She went the distance, allowing just four this and striking out six with just one walk. Juanita’s Milly Kawabata was a hard-luck loser, allowing only one hit and fanning eight with one walk.
Mount Si (11-2) and Juanita (11-3) finished 2-3. Tawney isn’t sure when Lake Washington last won the league crown outright, and neither am I.
The Kangs are 15-2 overall with wins over a pair of 4A teams – Arlington (the defending state champion) and Inglemoor. They lost to another quality 4A squad, Redmond. They are scheduled to get a good tune-up for district against Cedarcrest Monday.
Winning the league title was one of LW’s goals this season, along with getting to state. And when Tawney asked the players to write down individual and team goals at the beginning of the season, she also came up with these aspirations:
“They wanted to play every day as a team,” she said. “No matter who the starting nine is, it’s a team of 14…And they wanted to get better ever day.”
And the Kangs want to play their best, no matter who they’re facing. That especially comes into play where there are so many unknown 2A opponents at district and, hopefully, state.
“Our big focus all year is it doesn’t matter who’s in the other uniform, you just go out and play your game,” Tawney said. “If we play our game, it doesn’t really matter who shows up at district or state.”
Big MCC showdown set for Richland and Kamiakin
If I was still doing state rankings, Friday’s big twinbill might well be between the teams ranked No. 1 in 4A and 3A.
Mind you, I probably would have had Camas at No. 1 in 4A to start the season. The Papermakers have nearly everyone back from the team that reached the state championship game last year and was off to a 10-0 start. But then they ran into a very good Skyview team last week and lost 8-0. Skyview, another state team last season with plenty of talent back, had two losses at that point.
Camas lost again two days later, 1-0 to Battle Ground, then righted the ship with a 2-1 win over Skyview on Monday.
But I digress, sorry. The point is those losses might have vaulted Richland into the No. 1 4A spot this week (although there are some other very good teams in 4A – including a pair of local unbeatens in Snohomish and Tahoma, as well as red-hot Puyallup, which hasn’t lost since late March, and talented Redmond, to mention a few).
And Kamiakin certainly deserves the nod in 3A, coming off back-to-back championships with lots of returning players.
Neither team has lost a conference game. I’ve exchanged e-mails with both head coaches, so let me tell you about the two clubs.
Let’s start with Richland (17-1, 12-0). Last season, in their fourth straight trip to state, the Bombers lost to Arlington in the semifinals and then were eliminated by Tahoma, 4-2 – a team they had beaten 7-5 in the opening round. Tahoma went on to beat Woodinville (the 2012 state champ) 7-4 in the third- and fourth-place game. Richland placed third in 2012.
The team’s only loss this season was 9-8 to Lake City (Idaho), in an extra-inning game on April 26. The Bombers bounced back that same day to beat Coeur d’Alene, 3-0. CDA has beaten Lake City twice this season (and Kamiakin beat them 14-6 back in March).
The Bombers have all but two players back from last year’s team and feature three Division I players in pitcher Kayla Andrews (Mercer University in Georgia), catcher April Utecht (Oregon), and shortstop Stephanie Merwin (Utah Valley).
The 6-foot-1 Andrews, who was hampered by a back injury last season, is a power pitcher clearly back to form with 113 strikeouts in 65 innings and ERA of 0.43 (she’s allowed just four earned runs all season and is 12-1). She’s also a force at the plate with a .647 average (nine doubles, five home runs) and 37 RBI.
Utecht, a junior, and her numbers are staggering – a .672 average that includes 10 doubles, three triples and eight home runs (she bashed 16 as a sophomore last year). She’s driving in 39 runs.
Merwin, only a sophomore, leads off and is a blend of power and speed (.540 average, five doubles, two triples, seven homers, 35 runs scored, 32 RBI).
Other key players include junior Abby Perryman (5-0 as a pitcher with a .500 batting average, six doubles, five home runs and 26 RBI) and sophomore outfielder Kelsea Hinkley (.511).
As a team, Richland has 26 home runs and 48 stolen bases.
Coach Casey Emery had this to say about the big doubleheader with Kamiakin: “We are expecting a great matchup against a very strong and of course very experienced Kamiakin team. I believe the team that doesn’t let their nerves get the best of them will likely be the team to come out on top that night. Kamiakin is loaded with great players (one through nine) that can hit it and play very solid defense. Most agree that we may have the pitching edge.”
Kamiakin coach Tim Bisson agrees offense is his team’s forte.
“Our wins are because we score some runs,” he wrote in his e-mail, followed by a smiley face.
When asked for more stats on his pitchers, he gave me their records (to follow), but would only say the strikeout-to-walks ratios were about even and the ERAs were all about 2.5 per game.
The Braves are 10-0 in league play and 12-1 overall. They’ve won 12 straight after an 8-5 loss to Pendleton (Oregon) to open the season. Their record is a little light because they had three games rained out over here early on as they were scheduled to play Camas at the UW and a doubleheader set with Redmond the day before.
Bisson said that Camas game has been rescheduled at Camas for May 17, when the Braves will also play Battle Ground. They also face Southridge next week to close out league play.
Pitching-wise, the coach uses a three-player rotation with juniors Cassie Ramsey (4-0) and Kate Austin (3-0) and freshman Emily Moore (3-0).
Four players are batting well over .500, led by first baseman Emily Benson at a whopping .735. She is followed by third baseman Mel Oord (.581), second baseman Hunter Schneitter (.543) and outfielder Kenzi Lowry (.541). Lowry is a sophomore and the other three seniors.
“We’ll find out of we can hit on Friday because Kayla Andrews is one of the best in the state,” Bisson said in his e-mail.
I’ll be anxious to hear about those games, and hope to share it in next week’s blog.
Granite Falls rises to the top again in Cascade Conference
Naturally, the Granite Falls Tigers were hoping for a sweep when they took on Sultan yesterday in a battle between the top two teams in the Cascade Conference.
But they’ll settle for the split, which assured them Tigers of the outright league championship at 15-1 (16-2 overall) with two games remaining. Sultan is 10-4 in league play (11-4 overall, according to the Cascade Conference website).
The Turks took the opening game yesterday, 7-5 – and that snapped Granite Falls’ 15-game win streak. The Tigers lost their opener to a quality 3A team, Mountlake Terrace, 8-0 (a game that was just 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth inning).
The second game yesterday went 10 innings before Granite Falls pulled out a 7-6 victory.
“Both games were extremely hard fought by both teams,” assistant coach Dale Welk wrote in an e-mail.
Jillian Henle is the team’s head coach, but Welk was the one who reached out to me a couple of weeks ago via e-mail, providing me some information about the team, which has been a regular at the 2A state tournament the past few years.
In all, the Cascade Conference will send three teams into the Northwest 2A tournament, which also will include Lake Washington (as mentioned earlier) and four qualifiers from the Northwest Conference.
Sultan doesn’t have the No. 2 berth in hand just yet. The Turks have four games remaining, including two against Archbishop Murphy (currently third at 8-6) and one against Lakewood (fourth at 8-7).
Granite Falls is scheduled to play Cedarcrest (6-9 in league play) Friday and close out the regular season next Tuesday against Coupeville (3-13 league).
Four teams from the Northwest tourney will advance to state and Granite Falls hopes to be one of them. The Tigers have made the trek to Selah the last five years in a row and six out of the last seven.
This year’s squad is led by junior pitcher Lauren Harding, who is 15-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 129 Ks in 104 innings. She is also among the top hitters at .409 with five doubles and three triples, 16 runs scored and 14 RBI.
Sophomore Kelsey Bechtholdt, who plays either shortstop or in left field, leads the balanced offense with a .448 average and 23 RBI, with two doubles, three triples, three homers and 17 runs scored.
Freshman infielder Taylor Arndt, who leads off, has a .426 average with six doubles, five triples, 23 runs and 19 RBI.
The Tigers have just one senior on the roster, so their future continues to be bright.
Your best source for playoff brackets continues to be the WPNA site, which you’ll find here. League tournaments are not included, but the leagues who have websites through the WPNA usually get those posted individually, so check those.
Unfortunately, KingCo and Metro do not use that network. KingCo is pretty good about posting brackets — go here and then click on post-season brackets and chose 3A or 4A.
I finally found the Metro bracket online, through the Sea-King District website (click here), and the KingCo brackets are there too.
I’ll talk more about tournaments in next week’s Triple Play.