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June 5, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Triple Play: Final softball notes for 2014

Another prep softball season is in the books, and I am devoting the final edition of my 2014 notebook to some of the teams that went out with a bang – particularly the state champions from Puyallup (Class 4A) and Lake Washington (2A).

I asked those head coaches, and several others who took local teams to state, to e-mail me some thoughts and comments. I got responses from most and I am sharing them with you, along with a few thoughts of my own.

I apologize for not being able to include all local teams, but ran out of time and in some cases I didn’t hear back from a coach in time.

Puyallup savors special season

You might remember that I projected Snohomish as the winner of the 4A tournament, questioning Puyallup’s offensive firepower.

The Vikings got the chance to prove me wrong with a 4-1 win over the Panthers in the quarterfinals. They then blanked Woodinville, 5-0, and beat surprising Walla Walla in the title game, 4-2.

And it was Puyallup’s opening, 18-8 win over Emerald Ridge that gave Tony Batinovich his 900th career coaching victory between volleyball (575) and softball (the ER win was 326, but the total is now 329). ER was responsible for one of the Vikings’ two losses during the season.

Here are Batinovich’s comments:

The 2014 softball season was a very special one for the Puyallup program. After 22 season, we finally placed at the state tournament and not only did we place, but we won the 4A title!!!!

Our goal in 2014 was to always play hard for 42 outs every time we took the field and to control what we could control—effort, attitude and relaxed concentration. We may not have always reached our goals every time we played, but our 28-2 record indicates we must have done it more time than not.

Our SPSL South league was very tough this year due to Todd Beamer, Bethel (4th in the 4A state tournament) and all the other teams who battled every time they played. This proved to help us prepare for the tough competition of post-season.

Our three seniors – Marissa Miller, Taylor Jellison and Kylie Perez – were great leaders by both action and words. They taught our younger players what needed to be done in order to compete. Plus our younger players were talented and skilled to produce game after game. Every player on the roster contributed to our winning all throughout the season.

Our post-season run of 10 straight wins was a great ride. Time after time players like Bailey Plumb (Jr.), Emily Ensrud (Soph.), Natalie Joyner (Freshman), Kennedy Robillard (Freshman), Regan Byrd (Soph.) came up with timley hits to jump start rallies or to win games. The defense of the Bartelson sisters (Jordyn-Soph. and Brooklyn-Freshman) was flawless. And of course the game calling of catcher Kylie Perez and the pitching of Marissa Miller was a joy to watch.

A coach’s job is to not get in the way of the talent and to channel their skills into a team effort and in 2014 that is just what happened on Puyallup softball team in 2014.

Lake Washington wouldn’t be denied
Not many teams lose their No. 1 pitcher just before the playoffs, and go on to win the state title. But Lake Washington did.

Junior Maddie Brown suffered a broken bone in her non-pitching hand as the Kangaroos were prepping for the Northwest District tournament. But they didn’t miss a beat with freshman Tori Bivens in the circle. They not only rolled to the district title, climbed all of the way to the top at state, posting shutout victories in their final three games.

And apparently Brown was able to contribute three shutout innings at state (I didn’t realize that until I got details from coach Traci Tawney).

Here is what she wrote:

-I’ve really enjoyed working with this group of athletes and coaches this season. We were a team 14 deep from day one, everyone focused on quality over quantity and getting better everyday. Some days we got better at being teammates, other days we excelled at conditioning. One very rainy day we donned garbage bags to practice our head first diving on the wet grass.

-There could have been complaints about field conditions, bus complications, and other outside forces, but this team knew how to brush off the small stuff and focus on what was important. The focus, while intense, was never without a smile. Any passer by would quickly see their true love for the game.

-Every challenge was welcomed by these young ladies as a chance to get better; and they did. They put 13 wins together to take the League title, another 3 for districts and their final 4 at state. It’s not very often your team gets to end their season with a win. We’re very glad ours was in the championship game.

Some stand out moments to me…

-Waiting on a text/call From Maddie Brown to find out if her hand was broken. It was :( But this didn’t deter her in any way. She was able to pitch 3 shut out innings in the state tournament.

-Tori Bivens trying to give me the ball in our first district game. She had walked a few more than she was used to. I told her to, ‘Put that ball back in your glove. Let’s go! Your defense has your back and your offense is certainly not done!’ And they weren’t going on to score 17 runs against Anacortes.

-Kim Veldee, taking the mound even though she was “No longer a pitcher.” She threw 4 innings in Districts and another 4 in the State tournament. Without Kim and Maddie, Tori would not have been able to rest and prepare for the big games.

-Bats, bats, bats!!! They wouldn’t stop :) If hits weren’t going over the fence, they were falling in, or bunts were perfectly placed, and steals accomplished. These girls made runs cross the plate no matter what.

-DP Hannah Steele, scoring the first run of our championship game versus Othello. She couldn’t quite believe I was sending her home as she came into 3rd.

-The last out of State. A hard ground ball to our one and only senior Cori Meyers playing second base. As soon as she fielded it cleanly she came up with the biggest grin on her face. A short toss to first was all it took to let the screaming begin.

-Finally, getting to share the joy with our fans and parents. Everyone, coaches included, had at least one parent there cheering them on. With out them this season does not pan out as it did.

Enumclaw comes oh-so-close

The Enumclaw Hornets came oh-so-close to joining the list of champions, but lost the 3A title game 4-2 to Kamiakin of Kennewick, which claimed an unprecedented third straight title.

That’s the tournament I covered, and I was treated to some great games – including that final showdown between Enumclaw and Kamiakin. I have to tell you how impressed I was with Quinn Breidenbach, the Hornets’ sophomore pitcher. And not just because of how well she threw in the tournament. That spoke for itself, but because of how she handled herself when I went up to talk to her after that disappointing loss – the team’s only setback of the season.

She was a class act. With tears in her eyes, she spoke of her resolve to get better and come back to win the title next year.
And senior catcher Becky Forza was great, too. She even said it was an honor to play a team like Kamiakin with such a great tradition.
Coach Mike Eckhart was super to work with all season. He is a man of few words, and this is what he sent in his e-mail:

This was a phenomenal season for these lady’s! The best record in the state for fastpitch (28-1), back-to-back League, Sub-districts and District 3 Championships. 2nd in State and all the time keeping a “team first” attitude. They were taking care of each other all year with constant encouragement and support. Best of all they were nice enough to let the coaches come along for the ride with front row seats. It was truly a blessing to get to watch them play this year and for that we are thankful.

Thanks for covering the ladies in your paper this year.

I also want to give a quick shout-out to Kamiakin coach Tim Bisson, who took time a few days after the tournament to send me a note thinking me for our softball coverage.

Glacier Peak packed some punch

I’ll stick with some 3A teams here and move on to Glacier Peak, a club I had hoped to see take home a trophy after reaching the semifinals in its first-ever state tournament. The Grizzlies gave Enumclaw a tough game in the semifinals before falling 4-3, then lost 10-9 to Prairie, finishing one win short of a top-four trophy.

Here are comments from coach Caitlin Nies:

Glacier Peak Softball is extremely proud of our record breaking season. We ended up finishing 2nd in our regular season conference season, won the Wesco 3A Tournament, earned our first ever state berth in school history and finished 5th in the State Tournament.
This season came full circle as we started off slow losing some non conference games to some tough 4A schools. Our girls continued to work hard and stay focused on their goals and were able to use the initial adversity to make us stronger as a team.

During our postseason run this team played with so much heart and passion. We were able to get big hits from different people throughout the line up and our defense was led by outstanding pitching performances by Callie Bircher who threw every inning for us. Aurora Ellison and Abby Doney smacked key home runs to aid us in winning district and state games. Nina Kim’s defense at shortstop was flawless and kept a lot of speedy lead off hitters off base.

At the state tournament we came back in our first game vs. Prairei HS after being down 4-0 and being hitless until the fourth inning, eventually getting the game-winning RBI from Rebecca Willis’ double in the 8th inning. In our second game we again found ourselves trailing 2-0 but were able to fight back to a 5-2 victory over Juanita. Our two losses came down to the last out against a very talented Enumclaw team and in a 10-9, 10 inning battle with Prairie High School.

I can’t say enough about this teams toughness, resiliency, and heart. It was a lot of fun to coach a team that played with so much passion. This was an awesome season for our program and I know these experiences are going to make us even tougher in the future. We will miss greatly Senior Callie Bircher who has pitched most of our innings the past two years, been one of our best hitters, and has been our leader on and off the field. What an amazing career and person. She is a player that only comes around every so often in a program and we are really proud of all she has accomplished and contributed to Glacier Peak Softball.

Looking to the future we have a very talented group of Juniors that we will look to lead us back to Lacey.

Holy Names has a ‘Holy Cow!’ game at state

Holy Names didn’t take home a trophy from the 3A tournament either, but had a memorable stay.

After losing 10-4 to Enumclaw in the opening round, the Cougars eliminated Meadowdale, 10-5, and then had one of the most amazing comebacks you could imagine against Ferndale, which led 10-0 after the first inning. Holy Names ultimately won 14-13 on Claire McCarthy’s walkoff, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.

The Cougars were eliminated the next morning by Prairie, 11-1, but I had to reach out to longtime coach Jerry Milsap (officially an assistant this season) to see what he had to say about the season and tournament:

We started the season slowly as we had four returning starters and six new to varsity, including one who has never played softball before. Our older players brought the new ones into the fold, becoming friends. We tried many different line-ups and eventually they became competent and trusting of each other on the field. Scheduling five 4A games was a huge help to our peaking in May. We were able to dig in during the Metro League tournament, become focused, and in the Championship game the offense and defense worked together beautifully to record a (rare?) shut-out.

I couldn’t be more proud of this group who never gave up on each other. The energy was nonstop in the dugout from the first pitch to the last. That energy, focus and determination was clearly in action in Lacey Friday night. In a deep deficit after two innings, 11-0, the players made the outs, hung in until the 5th inning when they exploded to climb back to a tie. A single home run in the top of the 7th didn’t seem to faze them and in the bottom of the inning our lead-off hitter, Kendall Valenzuela, worked an eight-pitch at-bat to a walk for Claire McCarthy to come up and make her own kind of magic, a walk-off two run home run. A State game with 27 runs scored? How unlikely, and a wonderful way for such an exceptional player and young lady to finish her high school career. It’s really true, it’s not over until it’s over. It was the most satisfying and uplifting softball experience I’ve ever been a part of.

We always wonder what we’re going to do as we watch our seniors go. This is the third time I’ve had six players graduate but we seem to pull it together and move on, and we’re hopeful for next year as always.

Bainbridge falls short of own expectations

Bainbridge went just 1-2 at state, but still enjoyed a very solid season overall. Coach Liz McCloskey always sets high standards for her teams, so she was naturally disappointed not this one didn’t make a deeper run. Here are her comments:

Unfortunately, this year was not our year. While we made it back to the state tournament for the 8th year in a row, which is not easy to do, I would have liked to place a little higher. Our program has grown tremendously over the last ten years and my coaching staff and I will continue to push these kids to be the best they can be on and off the field. I saw a lot of good things in our young girls and am certainly looking forward to what the future holds.

More often than not at state, we beat ourselves. We needed to play our best in order to get into the trophy round. I have always said if you can get yourselves there, you give yourself a chance at the title. We return a core group of kids next year, but also lose a few kids who have been a key part of our program for years.

In the big picture, Mount Si accomplished its mission

After winning the Sea-King 3A District tournament, the hard-hitting Mount Si Wildcats looked as though they could be contenders at state. But after coming up short in a slugfest against Bonney Lake, 14-9, they went quietly against Mountain View of Vancouver, 11-1.

Yet coach Larry White had plenty of positive things to say in the final edition of what he calls his “Coaches Corner,” something he apparently sends out to players. He titled it “Mission Accomplished” and shared it:

When the dust all settled after the final out of the 2014 softball season there was plenty of tears to go around. For me it was a time of celebration, a time to celebrate the many accomplishments by us as individuals and as a team. We certainly could have dwelled on the way our season ended, but it wasn’t all about that, it was about how we got to the final week of the 2014 season. It was a time to call out the many amazing things that we had accomplished that no one could ever take away from us.
As I started to think about what I was going to say to the 2014 Lady Wildcats as our dream of a State Championship were dashed. I instantly knew what to say, I wanted to talk about the things that we had accomplished both as a team and as individuals. First, I wanted to celebrate Celine Fowlers, 1st team All-League selection not only for this year but for the third year in a row. Something that no one can ever take away from her, I wanted to talk about Nikki Carroll and her King-co MVP Award something that no one could ever take away from her, I wanted talk about Britney Stevens and Rose Vogt for their selection to the Kingco All League First team as a Catcher and outfielder respectively, something that can never be taken away from them. I wanted to recognize Jenny Carroll for her Second Team All King-co Outfield Award and for saving her best season for the last, something that will never be taken away from her. I was overcome by the success of this team. I wanted to recognize Rachael Picchena for being a Two Time Kingco First Team Third Baseman over her career, something that no one could ever take from her. We had four players named honorable mention, Rachael Picchena, Paige Wetherbee, Kara Link & Claire Lis., an honor that no one can ever take away from them. What about winning the Kingco Tournament? It even got better from there. We go on the next week and win only the second District Championship in school history, something, that can never be taken away from us.

Yes, the sting of not playing for a State Championship will linger for just a bit longer. The fact remains that we accomplished many of the goals that we set out to achieve.

Let’s not forget the many valuable Life Lessons that we learned along the way, the things that you will carry with you into adulthood. Things like Teamwork, Dedication, Commitment, Battling through Adversity, Believing in something bigger than oneself, Being kind to others and dreaming Big just to mention a few.
When you look back on the 2014 Lady Wildcat season, one question will always remain …..Did I give my very best? If you can answer this question with a big YES, Then all is well in Wildcat Country!!!!

Bethel did more than just show up in 4A tournament

Now it’s back to some of the 4A qualifiers, and I’ll start with Bethel, which might have been the surprise team of the tournament to many. The Braves had never been to state before, but opened eyes by reaching the West Central District championship game before losing to Puyallup.

And then they proved they weren’t just happy being there, knocking off Newport and Moses Lake before losing to Walla Walla in the semifinals, 7-4. Bethel then eliminated Redmond, 4-3, and wound up with the fourth-place trophy, losing 11-1 to Richland in the final game.

Rachel Barger shared these sentiments:

The Bethel Braves made such an outstanding showing this season accomplishing many firsts. As players they all have known each other for many seasons but as a team this is only their 2nd year playing together since there are only 2 seniors. The focus this season wasn’t on getting the skills acquired to win games, the players already had that, it was building the camaraderie to bring the girls together. Every free moment not focusing on skills and drills went into team bonding activities and games, building the relationship and trust a winning team needs to achieve at the highest level.

Overall the season began by meeting all expectations. I know that everyone wants to win every game but as long as you learn from each loss then you can chalk that up on the winning side. It showed at the West Central District Tournament that we had definitely learned from each season loss. Playing Beamer for the 3rd time this season I as a coach felt as confident as ever, knowing that we had made necessary advances to defeating one of the top teams in our league. Defeating Beamer was a first for Bethel in my 4 year tenure. It felt good to help the team to realize their potential and move on to Puyallup with confidence, developing mental strength and toughness.

After West Central, we talked about what we had accomplished as a team and the history in the making right before our eyes. We developed game plans for each team who was next on the list towards our team’s victorious run, taking each game one step at a time. Each challenge as it arose, as coaches we decided that even though our players know the game, have the skills, and had mentally prepared themselves to the fullest, we still needed to coach every pitch, every at bat and every out, communicating the entire game.

Ultimately knowing our girls and the pressure they put on themselves as athletes, we as coaches wanted to remind them that everything they do past West Central was a first ever for Bethel Fastpitch. Everything they accomplish was more than anyone had done before and that the stress and tension over winning should be left back at Bethel. It is because of this that we as coaches felt our players were successful. My coaching staff made up of my Little Brother at first, my little brother’s best friend of 12 years (Josh Wise) keeping score and our sideline scout/coach has been a member of our extended family since birth. Knowing that we fully as a staff support each other I think it finally brought the confidence we needed as a total unit to focus on what winning felt like and looked like at the state level.

Woodinville exceeds many expectations

Woodinville left last year’s state tournament with the fourth-place trophy, and a bad taste in its mouth overall. Fourth didn’t feel so good after taking first the year before, and expecting similar results.

But after key graduation losses, a lot of people didn’t know what to expect from the Falcons this season. Coach Dani Weir knew – she believed they could make another title run. And, after a special bonding experience (see last week’s blog, where the coach surprised her players by taking them to the courthouse to witness her wedding), they gave it a great shot.

The Falcons topped favored Camas in the opening round, and then Beamer. That meant a semifinal date with Puyallup, which the Vikings won 5-0. One more win would have meant a trophy, but Woodinville fell short against Richland, 5-2.

Here are some thoughts from Weir:

Overall, I’m very happy. Walking out of the park this season was a much different than last season, as far as expectations go. I feel like this year we exceeded expectations. I was very proud of what we were able to accomplish, especially being so young.

Walking out of there I was proud. We hit the ball well. The teams in that tournament were exceptional and I think the best team won. We got a chance to play them and we were happy that the team that beat us was able to go win it all, just to say that, hey, we faced them and we gave them a good game. It’s great for our girls to say, hey, we know the team that beat us, and some of your young players, our freshmen, were able to face them and see what it’s all about and see what we’re capable of doing and see how close we actually were to winning it.

I was happy to be able to have our freshmen come away with that experience and take it into their careers.

I’m just happy and proud.

Redmond doesn’t go down quietly

I thought Redmond could be a big player at state after winning the KingCo tournament, and in many ways coach Parris Mammon’s team was just that after taking an early tumble against Tahoma.

The young Mustangs responded by winning three loser-out games before falling 4-3 to Bethel, coming up just short of a trophy.

Mammon had good reason to be pleased overall:

I am extremely proud of how we played during the regular season and at the State Tournament.

Getting to state was the overall goal and we did it. That first loss to Tahoma stung a little bit but we bounced back and battled against some very good teams (Lake Stevens, Todd Beamer, Snohomish and Bethel).

Senior, Emily “Doc” Rockhill started all 5 games and pitched 34 innings and was a monster. At one point during her 5th consecutive game I could tell she was getting tired and when I asked her she said “coach that word is not in my vocabulary”……. she then smiled and jogged out to the pitching circle. Not only did she take care of business in the circle but she did it at the plate as well.
Senior, Elaine Wang also had a fantastic weekend offensively and defensively. She hit the ball hard and provided important RBI’s but more importantly her defense at 3rd base was key for us in some of the games we won.
Tatyanna Forbes, Daiana Kaplan and Kaija Gibson were also very dominating at the plate and on the base paths. Defensively, Sawyer Forseth called all 5 games and played exceptionally well.

Looking toward the future, I know there will be challenges because we’re losing Emily and Elaine, but I also know the other young ladies on the team work extremely hard and take a lot of pride in representing Redmond High School. Go Stangs!!!!!

There was so good and not so good for Tahoma
After finishing third at last year’s tournament, hopes were high again at Tahoma this season. And in many ways the Bears lived up to them. They were unbeaten through the regular season, and responded well to adversity after a couple of post-season losses.

Tahoma got that big, 15-5 win over Redmond to start the state tournament, then lost two straight, to Walla Walla and Redmond.

Coach Tom Milligan shared these thoughts:

I was really happy making it back to the state tournament. I thought we had a pretty good draw going into the tourney beginning with Redmond. They were fast and explosive at the plate and on the bases. Carley Nance threw a good game and put together an effective game plan with Kinzi Sanders, our catcher. Offensively, we had key hits early and began to increase our lead through the first couple of innings. From there, we played aggressive and tried to take as many bases as we could.

Had a nice break before the Walla Walla game, but came out flat at the plate. Pretty sure they had more runs than we had hits in the game. I tip my hat to their 10th grade pitcher. She had us guessing, and guessing wrong for 7 innings. Walla Walla will be in the state tournament the next few years. Young team with a strong pitcher.

Last season, after kicking into the losers side of the bracket it was fairly obvious when other kids/teams lost their motivation to play. We were able to play through a lot of games to get to the consolation game vs Woodinville. This season, after we lost to Walla Walla, I saw that same look in my players. It is definitely an emotional roller-coaster to go from a 15-5 win, to a 5-1 loss, to a 3rd game that makes or breaks your ability to play on Saturday within a 6-8 hour period of time.

Big congrats though to Tony and his ladies at Puyallup. And throw Beamer and Bethel into the mix, I think the SPSL had a nice showing at State. I look forward to my team growing from this experience and beginning a new goal in 2015.

Snohomish coach is still smiling

To be honest, I thought Snohomish might be one of the most disappointed teams leaving the 4A tournament without a trophy. I had picked the Panthers to win it all and they had lost just one game all season.

After losing in the quarterfinals to Puyallup, they bounced back to beat Battle Ground, 7-4, and then were eliminated by Redmond, 3-2.

Don’t expect any long faces from coach Lou Kennedy. Read on, and you’ll see it’s just the opposite:
My thoughts? I’m still grinning!!!! This experience was as good as it gets…14 years since Snohomish qualified for state. I was overwhelmed with the support and excitement our school and community showed us. Our parents and booster club came out in force and took care of all the little things that overwhelm coaches. Every player had a family member there, and considering it’s a 5-hour drive, that was great to see. We had former players and grandparents attend. In short, our fans rock!

The WIAA ran a great tourney. The only issue I felt was most coaches wanted to know why we were on 220-foot fences? None of the coaches I talked to had never played on fields this big. It took power out of the game and made outfield gaps huge. As for our future, it still looks good. We have pitching and the best catcher around returning. The rest will be young, but that’s half the fun. Thanks for everything.

This year was very special for me. Thanks again (my wife asked me when will I stop smiling? I said August).

Plenty to smile about at Beamer, too

I was never quite sure what to expect from Beamer this year – but mostly I expected good things, and saw them.

I knew the Titans had the potential to take home a state trophy, and they started well with a 5-1 win over Richland (ironically, a team that later did take home the third-place hardware). But then they lost back-to-back to Woodinville and Redmond, and went home empty handed.

Still, there was plenty to be proud of, and coach Brian Hering was:

We had a great year only losing to Puyallup 1-0 in one of our games. Then knocking off unbeaten Tahoma, which I don’t think anybody gave us a shot at. After coming out in districts and winning our first 2 games to get to state, I think we got flat and over confident that we could beat Bethel. I said from the beginning of the year that was a team to watch.

Our goal was to just get to state and anything could happen. When the draw came out I think everybody was shocked that we had so many tough teams in our bracket. Every team was good that was at state. It just seamed our bracket was a little stronger.

When people saw our draw they gave us no shot at Richland. My girls came out with that underdog mentality. We handled Richland pretty easy and we had a ton of confidence. Then having the lead on Woodinville late in the game was awesome. We were one strike from going to the bottom of the 7th tied. We did score a run in the bottom of the inning. But who knows what would have happened.

Then going into the Redmond game we were really down because of the Woodinville loss. Gave up 5 runs early. Battled back to take the lead into the bottom of the 7th, 9-6. Then 2 mistakes on easy plays cost us that game.
One thing I can say is the girls fought hard all year. We improved our league record by a game. Took 2nd in the SPSL tourney which has never been done before by Beamer Fastpitch. I had the league MVP in Megan Chan. Five first team all SPSL players (Megan, Maddy Rogers, Maddy Colson, Analee Scott and Jourdin Hering). We will really miss Megan and 2nd team infielder Kelsey Mcdonell along with Taylor Pierce, our 3 seniors.

These girls will be hard to replace. But I think with Maddy Rogers on the mound and the other 6 returning starters, all which have at least 2 years of starting under there belts, we should be able to make another good showing for Beamer Fastpitch. I’ve got a couple of young freshman coming up next year which really should help out.

I would like to congratulate Puyallup for winning it all they deserved it. Also to Bethel for there great run. They’re my pick to watch next year. But don’t count us out. We are moving to the SPSL North and will have to give Tahoma a run for their money.

So that’s it for Triple Play in 2014. Be sure to check back next spring for more softball notes!

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

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