CENTRALIA — Three clutch seventh-inning hits delivered a state tournament berth to Aberdeen’s softball team and a historic first on Thursday afternoon.
The Bobcats used their late-game heroics to knock off Ridgefield and R.A. Long, the latter defeated on a walk-off infield single by Stephanie Boone, to move into today’s championship game of the District IV 2A softball tournament at Borst Park.
The wins not only gave Aberdeen (14-8) its third consecutive state tournament berth, but earned the Bobcats their first-ever district championship appearance.
Today at 6 p.m., the Bobcats will take on Evergreen 2A champion and rival Chehalis in the title game.
“It is definitely a great feeling,” AHS senior pitcher Mo Donovan said. “Over the past two years, we’ve won one game and lost one game on the first day and had to come back and win twice to go to state. Knowing we have to come back and play just one game (today) is awesome. It is amazing how the younger girls have stepped up.”
Bobcats 4, Jills 3
Down 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Aberdeen was on its last at-bats and needed to manufacture the tying and, possibly, winning runs against R.A. Long’s ace, Tori Almos.
Kiana Dixon led off the frame with a double to the left-center field fence. Mo Donovan tied the game with a one-out RBI single and advanced to third base on a two-base outfield error.
Boone, who stepped to the plate 0-for-6 on the day, ended the game on her first hit of the tournament. On a 0-1 pitch from Almos, Boone got just enough of the ball to send a small blooper behind Almos and the ball bounced off three Lumberjill infielders as Donovan scored to ignite the celebration.
“We’ve been working on hitting with runners in scoring position and it has hurt us at times this year,” AHS head coach Jeff Timmons said. “The girls bore down and got the hits when they counted. … This was another pitcher’s duel. Tori Almos is a great pitcher, Grace (Utto-Galarneau) came in and pitched a great game and Mo came in late to shut them down to give us a chance.”
Aberdeen was expecting to take on league rival Tumwater in this championship semifinal game, but R.A. Long continued its run of upsets and surprise finishes to get to this game.
The Jills, who needed a walk-off grand slam by Addie Baily in an upset win over Greater St. Helens 2A champs Ridgefield and a Hockinson win over Washougal to qualify for the tournament, knocked off the T-Birds, 6-3.
Almos used that first-game momentum to close off the Bobcats, while sophomore pitcher Grace Utto-Galarneau did the same to the Jills.
R.A. Long started the scoring on its first two hits of the game in the third — a Chelsea Zimmerman single and an RBI single by Julie Leggett — for a 1-0 lead. Aberdeen took a 2-1 lead after five innings with an RBI single by Ericka Manwell in the fourth and an RBI double by Alexxi Timmons in the fifth.
Almos pitched herself out of several jams as well, stranding eight AHS runners all in scoring position for the first six innings. Utto-Galarneau gave up just four hits in her six innings of work, but three of them scored runs, including Baily’s two-run home run for a 4-3 lead in the sixth.
Donovan relieved Utto-Galarneau in the seventh inning and picked up her second win of the day as the pitcher of record.
Bobcats 3, Spudders 1
Donovan and Ridgefield ace Shannon Boyle locked themselves into an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel in this rain-soaked opening-round contest. The rain fell and wind blew throughout the contest, but the pitchers dominated this contest until the end.
Boyle started her day by striking out five of the first six batters she faced. The junior fanned 12 in the contest and scattered five hits. Donovan pitched out of two jams early and finished with nine strikeouts and the complete-game win.
Timmons got the scoring started in the fourth with an RBI single to center to score Shannon Chesterman. Ridgefield tied the game on Brianna Cunningham’s RBI single in the fifth inning.
Donovan stranded the Spudders in the sixth inning to end a threat, then started the game-winning rally. Donovan advanced to first base on a throwing error in the top of the seventh. Utto-Galarneau stroked a ground-rule double that one-hopped the center field fence.
Boyle got two strikeouts before Heather Dublanko smacked a two-run single up the middle — the Bobcats’ first of three clutch seventh-inning hits — for the game-winning runs. Donovan stranded a Spudder on second base in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win.
“We had some jitters,” coach Timmons added. “We’re a young team. That was a great pitcher’s duel. We played great defense and got some timely hitting, which rolled over into (the game against R.A. Long).”
RAL 001 002 0 — 3 5 4 Abe 000 110 2 — 4 7 0
Almos and Dobbins; Utto-Galarneau, Donovan (7) and Timmons.
RBI: R.A. Long — Baily 2, Leggett. Aberdeen — Timmons, Donovan, Boone, Manwell. Two hits: R.A. Long — Leggett. Home run: R.A. Long — Baily. Doubles: R.A. Long — Leggett, Cathcart. Aberdeen — Dixon, Timmons.
Winning pitcher — Donovan (one strikeout). Losing pitcher — Almos (seven strikeouts, three walks).
Abe 000 100 2 — 3 5 2 Ridge 000 010 0 — 1 5 2
Donovan and Timmons; Boyle and Chandler.
RBI: Aberdeen — Timmons, Dublanko 2. Ridgefield — Cunningham. Two hits: Ridgefield — Mayer. Double: Aberdeen — Utto-Galarneau.
Winning pitcher — Donovan (nine strikeouts, one walk). Losing pitcher — Boyle (12 strikeouts).