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May 29, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Triple Play: Softball notes on Woodinville’s suprsise, thoughts on state

My plan for this week’s softball notebook was to simply focus on the 4A, 3A and 2A state tournaments and analyze them a bit (especially 4A and 3A, where I feel I know a bit more about the fields).

Then I heard about something special involving Woodinville coach Dani Weir and her players and decided to lead off with that, then jump into the actual tournaments. So that segment outweighs anything I might have to offer in 2A (where I admit I’m a big clueless)

I’ll be at the RAC in Lacey to cover the 3A tournament, and you can look for updates via twitter (@SandyRinger1) and on our blog. We will have someone at the 4A tournament as well and hope to get twitter and blog updates (I’ll retweet and update on the blog as I can).

Woodinville bonds by witnessing coach’s wedding
Dani Weir and Chad Tachell have wedding plans in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, on June 28.
But they knew they would have to legalize the marriage in the United States at some point.

As her Woodinville team looked to qualify for the 4A state softball tournament, Weir noticed that May 28 would be the day before they all would travel to Spokane.

What better bonding experience than to have her players involved in the courthouse ceremony?

“They’ve been with me along the journey of being engaged and talking about the wedding and all that stuff,” Weir said. “We had date May 28th in mind and I thought, ‘If we make it to state, if we’re still practicing, how fun would it be to leave for state on that kind of a note and let them be a part of this experience?’

“Who else has had 17 bridesmaids before?”

When the Falcons punched their state ticket last week, Weir and assistant coach Mike Dale began putting the plan in motion, with Tachell’s blessing. They told the players to be ready for a surprise bonding experience on the 28th and played it up big, telling them to be sure to be stretched out and everything.

“We had fun planting some seeds,” she said. “They’re all thinking they’re going to laser tag or paint ball or Sky High or something like that. They weren’t even close.”

They had an abbreviated practice, then car pooled to the unexpected destination – the King County District Courthouse in Redmond.

Players knew that Weir and Tachell were going to have a legal ceremony at some point, and as they pulled up most began to realize what was happening.

“They were just totally caught off-guard,” Weir said. “They had no idea. As they came piling out of the cars, I just said, ‘Hey, I’m getting married. I need some witnesses. Are you guys up for it?’”

There was some whooping and hollering, and some tears as well as the girls were touched to be included.

“You saw their eyes kind of well up a little bit,” said Weir, noting she is still using her maiden name for now. “They all just got so excited and totally stunned. Some of them a little confused. My fiancé brought be flowers and they opened up the courthouse just for us. The entire team sat in the pews and it was pretty fun.

“They videoed it and took a ton of pictures. We threw the bouquet and it was awesome. It was just a really good thing for all us to do together and Chad was totally supportive. He thought it was it was just an awesome thing.”

Family from both sides was on hand, too – including sister Makenna Weir, who caught the bouquet (“the little competitive one,” Dani said).

There were was no special wardrobe. Dani said she wore her regular practice attire, including the turf shoes.

Afterward, there was a celebration at a nearby restaurant.

It was a rare experience for a high-school softball team, and one that should bring the players and staff even closer together. Now we’ll see if it can bring them any added chemistry on the softball field this weekend.

Is the 4A field wide open?
I’ve never been one for picking games or tournament champions (sometimes our editors make us do it, like in football and basketball). I’ve had my share of good guesses, and bad.

And it’s never meant for any team to take personally. You don’t make it to state without being a quality club.

Some years, there are heavier favorites than others. I thought Arlington would have a shot at last year’s title, with a healthy Ronnie Ladines back in the circle and at the plate. Looking back at last year’s notebook, I suggested the Eagles and Emerald Ridge would meet in one semifinal and Woodinville (the 2012 champ) and Camas in the other.

Well, I was three-quarters right. ER was unbeaten going into the tournament, as I recall, then lost two straight. That right there tells you just about anything can happen in high-school softball.

The Jaguars were nipped in the opening round by Newport, 10-9, which then lost to Richland. So it was Arlington and Richland meeting in the upper half of the bracket, and Woodinville taking on Camas in the bottom half. Arlington and Camas won in shutout fashion, then Arlington took the title game, 2-1.

If not for a late-season loss to Lake Stevens, Snohomish would be unbeaten going into this weekend and probably the favorite. I still like the Panthers’ chances, and they did beat Lake Stevens in the Northwest District title game.

Snohomish opens against Wenatchee, a team I know nothing about other than they finished third in the Big Nine behind Moses Lake and Eastmont and won a pair of loser-out games to qualify.

A win there would pit Snohomish against either Puyallup or Emerald Ridge. I’d favor Puyallup, the West Central District champion (ER qualified as the No. 7 team out of that tournament). But one of the Vikings’ two losses this season was to Emerald Ridge, 8-7, just three weeks ago (their other loss was the Fife, a 2A contender).

If it’s Snohomish-Puyallup, that should be a great game, but I might give the edge to Snohomish there because of a more prolific offense.

So, who might Snohomish get in the semis, if it plays out that way? Another tough call. The Woodinville-Camas and Beamer-Richland openers are brutal! Those are four quality teams. Camas was impressive at district, but did lose to Puyallup.

Beamer lost to Bethel and Camas at West Central and will have its hands full with Richland, which has not lost to a 4A team in the state this season (the Bombers’ two losses were to Lake City, Idaho, and Kamiakin, the two-time defending 3A champion).

I’m going to go with…..Richland.

The upper half is tougher to pick in part because I know less about more of the teams.

And talk about brutal openers – Tahoma-Redmond is a big one. Tahoma, third in last year’s tourney was unbeaten during the regular season, then lost to Beamer in the SPSL tourney and Bethel at district.

Redmond emerged as the top team out of KingCo and has some heavy hitters – as does Tahoma, which has been erratic in the late going (but won three straight to close out the district tourney).

That one’s almost a coin flip and I’ll go with Redmond, which would then get either Lake Stevens or Walla Walla (a team I’m blind about, but a No. 2 qualifier out of the Eastern Regional behind Richland after eliminating a pair of Greater Spokane League teams).

Lake Stevens has shown it can play with anyone. But I’ll go with Redmond into the semis along with….geez, that’s really a guess. It’s Newport-Bethel and Battle Ground-Moses Lake in the other openers.

Moses Lake has won 15 of its last 16 since a 14-6 loss to Woodinville back in March. The Chiefs fell 5-4 to Eastmont early this month and are 7-0 since. Battle Ground’s only loss at district was 1-0 to Puyallup, the eventual champ (on a home run – the Vikings’ lone hit of the game).

Bethel was the surprise team at West Central, reaching the title game before falling to Puyallup. It’s the school’s first trip to state in fastpitch. Newport got here the hard way (again), winning three straight loser-out games after losing in the KingCo quarterfinals to Woodinville, 11-1.

I’ll roll the dice and go with Battle Ground.

So, to recap (for my sake at least), that would be Battle Ground-Redmond in one semi and Richland-Snohomish in the other. I’d love to see a Redmond-Snohomish final (for local readership), so why not?

And so in my bracket, I’ll pencil in Snohomish as the 4A state champion (I always use pencil – as I often have to erase!). It could just as easily be Redmond, or pretty much any of the other 14 teams.

We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Enumclaw should be tough to beat in 3A
I thought Enumclaw had a strong chance to take home a trophy at last year’s tournament and the Hornets started with a 5-2 win over Interlake. They were one strike away from beating Meadowdale in the quarterfinals, until Rebecca Wright’s walkoff, three-run home run in the 10th inning.

Enumclaw was then eliminated by Mountlake Terrace, 12-8, which used a pair of grand slams to advance.

So, the unbeaten Hornets have plenty of fire – and firepower – as they come into this year’s even, looking for their first-ever state title.

They open against a good Holy Names team that is probably just a bit overmatched, and then could get a rematch with Meadowdale in the quarterfinals. But the Mavs have a tough opener against University of Spokane – a team they beat last year at state in the game to decide third and fourth places.

The Titans gave Kamiakin all it could handle in the Eastern Regional final before losing 12-11, so you know they can hit. Meadowdale had to come through the loser’s bracket in the Northwest District tourney after being upset in the semifinals by Glacier Peak. The Mavs have some big bats, too, and again it would be great to have a local team advance. But I’m giving U-Hi the nod here, but then going with Enumclaw to advance to the semis.

The other first-round games in that bottom half of the bracket feature Columbia River-Juanita and Prairie-Glacier Peak.

Prairie, an annual contender and second-place finisher last year, has tradition on its side. GP is at state for the first time and nerves could be an issue. But the Grizzlies showed none in beating a good Ferndale team in the district title game, so why not go with them?

Juanita has state experience as well, but for some reason I’m leaning toward Columbia River in that one (CR was third in the West Central tourney after losing 3-0 to Mountain View in the semis).

I’ll pick Glacier Peak as a Cinderella team, but then the glass slipper falls off in the semifinals against Enumclaw.

In the upper half of the bracket, I like Mount Si’s chances of getting to the semis, as long as the self-proclaimed “Bomb Squad” brings the blistering bats to Lacey. The Wildcats open with Bonney Lake, and then would get Mountain View or Shadle Park with a win.

I’ve got to go with Kamiakin as the other semifinalist. The two-time defending champs will give up runs, but generally score enough to finish on top. Liberty will be first up, and then either Ferndale or Bainbridge (I’m leaning Ferndale there, unless the Spartans play their best softball).

So, if it happens to be Kamiakin vs. Mount Si in that semifinal, there could be some entertaining fireworks. I’d love to have an all-local final (last year it was Kamiakin-Prairie, not exactly ideal for Seattle-area readers), but think Kamiakin deserves the props as repeat champs.

Then in the final, I’ll go with Enumclaw.

My apologies to the 2A tournament, but as noted earlier I don’t know anything about the majority teams in that field. It would be fun to see Lake Washington get its first crown, and it’s possible, but tough Ellensburg looms as a potential semifinalist.

I’d like to see Fife do well, too, after a fantastic season to this point, and the Trojans are in the other half of the bracket. But something tells me to watch out for Othello, and W.F. West is swinging it well, too.

Like they say, it could be anyone’s ballgame – in all of the state tournaments. I hope you get out to watch some!

Comments | More in Softball, Triple Play | Topics: Dani Weir, Enumclaw, Lake Washington

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