Over the past several years, the most consistent state participants in spring team sports have been Grays Harbor softball teams. Starting Friday, that tradition continues again in Selah, Richland and Yakima.
On Friday, Aberdeen will kick off its third consecutive trip to the state 2A tournament at Carlon Park in Selah. Grays Harbor rivals Montesano, Hoquiam and Elma — the second, third and fourth seeds out of the district tournament — will travel down to Richland for the state 1A tournament at Columbia Playfield.
Wishkah will journey to Yakima’s Gateway Complex for the state 1B tournament for the second straight season, rounding out the Harbor’s state teams.
It has been a steady climb in achievement for Aberdeen softball at the state tournament in Selah. Over the past two seasons, the Bobcats (14-9 overall) have progressed from a 1-2 record in their first-ever state appearance to qualifying for the state semifinals the next year.
This year, Aberdeen will field a younger team, but one with solid state experience throughout and expectations are high. It’ll begin play Friday at 10 a.m. against Ellensburg.
“We’re looking at it one game at a time,” AHS head coach Jeff Timmons said.
Timmons points to the team’s progression from struggling early on to district runner-up as a big reason for optimism. Aberdeen went into the District IV 2A tournament as the No. 4 seed and knocked off Ridgefield and R.A. Long en route its first-ever title-game appearance.
Against Evergreen 2A rival Chehalis, the Bobcats took a 7-6 lead on the reigning state champion Bearcats in the top of the seventh inning before falling, 8-7, in the district title game.
“They’re the defending champs; if we can play with them, we can play with anybody,” Timmons said. “We’ve taken leaps and bounds from where we were earlier in the year. We had some trouble filling spots, but through hard work at practice, we found the players who stepped up for us. It has been good for us.”
Junior catcher Alexxi Timmons leads the Bobcats with a .505 batting average, with five home runs and 25 RBIs. Senior Mo Donovan, who’ll share pitching duties with sophomore Grace Utto-Galarneau, led the team with 27 RBIs on a .402 batting average and three home runs.
Class 1A Montesano
For the last 16 seasons, Montesano (13-8) has booked its Memorial Day weekends with trips to the state tournament. Despite last week’s tightly contested district title-game loss to Woodland, the Bulldogs enter this weekend’s tourney with confidence and some reservations.
“In the last three years we’ve gone to state, we’ve lost our first-round game,” Montesano head coach Pat Pace said. “Whether we’ve looked past our opponent or we just weren’t focused, we’ve been on the wrong end. Our philosophy this year is to focus on just one game and that is against Seattle Christian (10 a.m. Friday).”
Pace noted that his team’s main quarterfinal challenge may come from Cascade-Leavenworth, but he stuck to the “one game” mantra. The Bulldogs, if successful in the first two rounds, could match up with either Hoquiam or Connell in the semifinals.
Pace also tapped Connell as the team to beat, with former Grays Harbor Heat player Ashley Thompson leading the Eagles from the circle and at the plate.
“With Thompson alone with her pitching and offense, she can beat a lot of teams all by herself,” Pace said. “Connell is picked to win it by most of the coaches. Hoquiam (which could see Connell in the quarterfinals) will have their hands full.”
Leading Montesano this season are two seniors — outfielder Bobbi Fry (.532 batting average) and catcher Courtney Swan (.520 BA) — and sophomore pitcher Madison Didion. Junior pitcher Staci Schneider will also be available for the Bulldogs in the circle and at the plate.
The Grizzlies (17-5) have found themselves peaking at just the right time of the season. A non-league rivalry win against Aberdeen sparked Hoquiam into a run through league and into the district tournament, where it finished third with a win over Elma in the seeding game.
For its troubles, Hoquiam will get Eatonville at 10 a.m. in the opening round and could face reigning state champion Connell, with Ashley Thompson leading, in the quarterfinals.
“A few of the girls have played with Ashley and they’re excited to see her again,” HHS head coach Keith Reynvaan said. “They want to get over there and play. I liked the way we played on Saturday. Our defense has been playing well. Our offense hasn’t been consistent of late, but I think we’ll be ready to go.”
Reynvaan noted that his main concern for the Grizzlies, who went 1-2 in last year’s state tourney, was defense early in the season. However, with help from assistant coach Ed Dawson, defense and pitching has been the team’s greatest strengths.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Reynvaan added. “I feel really good about where we are now.”
Leading the Grizzlies into state are senior Jessica Madison (9-2, 2.00 ERA) and Bailee Bradley (7-3, 2.20 ERA) in the circle, with Bradley leading the team with a .525 batting average and three home runs at the plate. Ellie Quercia finished with a .508 average, while Kayla Hilliard led the team with seven home runs and 30 RBI.
Sometimes a loss is more beneficial than a win and that’s what happened with Elma in the district tournament. The Eagles’ loss to Hoquiam in the third-fourth place seeding game ended up putting them in an advantageous spot in the state bracket.
At noon, the Evergreen 1A champion Eagles (19-4) will take on Nooksack Valley and are on the opposite side of the bracket than Monte and Hoquiam. A possible semifinal matchup with district champion Woodland is possible, however.
“I think it will be nice playing teams that don’t know us and vice versa,” Elma head coach Janene Todd said. “We need to play our game, come out strong, and, most importantly, play as a team.”
One concern for Elma is the status of No. 1 pitcher Brooke Goldsmith, who showed some arm troubles in the second half of the regular season and throughout the district tournament. Goldsmith leads the team with a .562 batting average and is the team’s ace in the circle.
“Brooke is going to pitch as much as Brooke can pitch,” Todd said. “She’s our No. 1 pitcher, but we need to take care of her as well. Hopefully, we can get leads and (Ashley Cooper) can come in and finish them off.”
Class 1B Wishkah
Last year, Wishkah achieved a first for its young softball program — a state-tournament victory.
This year, the Loggerettes are younger, but Wishkah head coach Tove Reibel believes they are better equipped for a run through the eight-team tournament. The tournament starts at 1 p.m. Friday with a matchup against Selkirk in the opening round.
Last year, Selkirk blanked Wishkah, 7-0, in a winner-to-place, loser-out game. Selkirk finished third last year.
“I think we have a more aggressive hitting team than we did last year; we’re becoming a better-hitting team against faster pitchers,” Reibel said. “I think we have a strong pitcher (in Teagan Louthan). I think we have been more aggressive hitters and we’re tightening our defense, so I think we’ll do well.”
Reibel cited Louthan and Hannah Olson, the team’s only senior, as key offensive contributors at the top of the batting order, with Sam Bernhardy coming on strong late in the season.