The Rangers’ bats were hot.
But the Wildcats’ bats got hotter.
Wilbur-Creston-Keller cut short Quilcene’s trip to the 1B State Fastpitch Softball Championships as …
The Rangers’ bats were hot.
But the Wildcats’ bats got hotter.
Wilbur-Creston-Keller cut short Quilcene’s trip to the 1B State Fastpitch Softball Championships as the Wildcats scratched their way to a lead on the way to an improbable 28-15 finish.
The second-game defeat and end of the Rangers’ 10th straight trip to the state finals came despite a heroic late-game rally by the Quilcene softball team.
The No. 6-seeded Rangers were knocked into the consolation bracket with an unblemished 5-0 conference record (10-4 overall) with a 15-2 loss against the No. 3-seeded Inchelium Hornets in Friday’s first round.
Even so, the Rangers tried to outrun the stingy Hornet defense, and then the Wildcats’ gaudy offense, all the way through the final out of their appearance at State.
“We’ve always just continued to go, despite what adversity we’ve faced,” Quilcene Coach Mark Thompson said after the Rangers’ matchup against the Wildcats.
“Whether it’s adversity we’ve created for ourselves, or what the other team has created for us, we’ve never, never ever quit,” he said.
“And I told them, we’re not going to do that here, either. If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down fighting,” Thompson added. “And that’s what they did.”
The Rangers looked to be off to a good start during their first game at Yakima’s Gateway Sports Complex.
The Rangers scored first after Stormie Elkins rocketed a shot to center field to drive in Shelby Love from second base.
The 1-0 advantage in the first inning wouldn’t endure long, however, as the Hornets’ Sammi Stensgar stroked a line drive to right field on a 1-2, 1-out pitch to give Inchelium a 3-1 advantage.
The contest soon went south for Quilcene.
Inchelium scored again on a two-out sacrifice fly in the second inning to push the game to 4-1, and a big hit to centerfield by the Hornets’ Annmarie Simpson on a 3-1 pitch gave Inchelium another two RBIs in the third inning.
Behind 6-1 in the third inning, Quilcene fell deeper into a hole after Simpson stole home on a dropped pitch to give the Hornets the 7-1 lead with no outs.
The Rangers responded with a single by Elkins and a hit by freshman Abby Ward that was dropped by Simpson, but Quilcene couldn’t capitalize.
The Inchelium offense continued to buzz, and a blast to right field by Hailey Peone brought home Kylee Andrews and Inchelium was on top, 8-1, with one out.
If the Quilcene fans in the stands thought things couldn’t get worse, well, they did.
A shot up the middle nailed Ranger pitcher Kayla Ward on the right shin and she was helped off the ballfield, not to return.
Shelby Love stepped into the circle for the Rangers with two outs and a runner on third.
A two-RBI blast to centerfield by Stensgar followed, and the Hornets then led by 10, with a score of 11-1.
Torrence Finley connected on a two-RBI hit with one out and the score was 14-1, Inchelium.
Quilcene’s comeback was limited to one run and Inchelium advanced to face No. 2 Colton while the Rangers moved into the race for third and fourth place against No. 7 Wilbur-Creston-Keller.
Elkins again put Quilcene on the board against the Wildcats with an RBI shot to right field for a 1-0 lead.
The bases were loaded for the Rangers in the first inning after Abby Ward was walked, and Quilcene rose to 2-0 with another walk to force a player home.
Elkins then scored on a dropped pitch and the Rangers were up 3-0 against the Wildcats.
Destiny Hack was then walked home, as well, and Quilcene led 3-0, with the bases still loaded.
The Rangers scored again after a pop-up to by Jayden Talley to third base was dropped, and Quilcene was looking at a 5-0 scoreboard in their favor.
The Wildcats quickly regrouped.
Wilbur-Creston-Keller scored on a shot up the middle and a two-RBI blast to right field by Logan Mcelyea brought the contest to 5-3 with two outs.
The hit parade continued for the Wildcats in the next inning, when Paige Sapier tripled and Wilbur-Creston-Keller took its first lead of the game, 6-5.
A RBI single followed and the gap grew to 7-5 with no outs.
The Wildcats quickly plated another run, then a hit by Mcelyea that popped out of a Ranger glove put the score at 9-5 with no outs.
Another Warrior single loaded the bases, and Wilbur-Creston-Keller’s Jayden Sapier sent a sacrifice rainbow to centerfield for the 11-5 lead.
Six more runs would follow before Quilcene would answer and trim the 17-5 Wildcat lead; Elkins connected on a two-RBI single to bring the Rangers within a dozen, 17-7.
Quilcene started to pull feathers out the Wildcats’ cushion — one RBI at a time, with two scores coming courtesy of a pair of dropped catches to close the gap to 17-11.
The Wildcats showed their claws in the fourth, though, with 11 runs on seven hits to put the game away.
Time ran out for the Rangers, and in the end, Quilcene had more pluck than luck.
“Defensively, we simply didn’t play very well. It cost us today,” Thompson said.
Even so, the Rangers never rolled over.
“You know what? They didn’t quit,” the coach said. “And that’s what I asked them to do. Don’t quit. Play hard the whole way. Represent yourself and your community.
“I’m proud of them. I respect them. They’ve worked hard this year,” Thompson said. “They got to the biggest stage, and we’ve got nothing to look down about.”
“They know they can play better. We can play with both the teams that we lost to today. But today, we didn’t,” he said.
Looking ahead, the Rangers will lose only three seniors to graduation: Kayla Ward, Teagan Graunke, and Shelby Love.
Quilcene’s roster for the state championships was rounded out by juniors Kaydence Yeoman, Destiny Hack, Savannah McBride, Zoey Carver, Ashley Jones, Rhiannon Chapman, and Claudia Wilcox; sophomores Sierra Graunke and Stormie Elkins; and freshmen Jayden Talley, Justice Orlieb, Abby Ward, Joanne Tom, Chloe Hack, and Emery Wilcox.
The state’s top-seeded No. 1 and No. 2 teams advanced to the final game Saturday afternoon, with the numbers holding true and the Liberty Christian Patriots of Richland winning the state 1B crown.
Wilbur-Creston-Keller’s win set up a matchup with No. 4 DeSales Saturday, and the Wildcats were scorched by the Comets 25-0. DeSales took fourth place at State, beating Nasalle 12-1.
Inchelium advanced to challenge No. 2 Colton, but the Hornets were sent back to the hive by Colton 11-6.
Liberty Christian, with tourney wins against both No. 8-seed Darrington and DeSlaes, won the championship 4-1 in the final against the Colton Wildcats.