CENTRALIA – April Wells’ hard lineout to third base to end Friday’s 2A District IV fastpitch title game summed up the day for the Tumwater Thunderbirds.
When the 2A Evergreen Conference regular-season champion T-Birds weren’t getting hits – they had six – they were hitting into groundouts (10) or lineouts (three) right at the Bearcats.
“That’s what we’ll be working on (finding the gaps) at practice next week,” Tumwater coach Clay Hill said following the 5-4 loss to W.F. West at Fort Borst Park. “We’ll be all right.”
It was the second time in six years that Tumwater (20-2) reached a district title game. The previous time was in 2006 when the program reeled off 24 consecutive wins during the season and claimed the 3A Southwest District title as well as the 3A state title.
Despite the loss, the T-Birds already clinched a state berth – the program’s first since placing fourth in 2009 – and will be the district’s No. 2 seed at state for next weekend’s 2A state tournament at Carlon Park in Selah. W.F. West earned the district’s top seed.
“We have a lot of confidence that we’re going to win (at state),” said senior Ashley Wells, who belted her first high school home run in the seventh inning.
Tumwater, which swept the regular-season series from W.F. West, 7-6, 4-3 and 4-0, was haunted by miscues on defense Friday.
After the T-Birds took a 3-1 lead in the third inning on Alyssa Ubrun’s triple and an error, the Bearcats (18-3) sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs – two unearned – to take a 5-3 lead in their half of the third inning. The two unearned runs came on two infield errors.
The damage could’ve been more in the fifth when the Bearcats started the inning with back-to-back singles by Marissa Reynolds and Lauren Fisher. But Tumwater senior Kierstin Smith got out of a jam, striking out Kaitlyn Girardin and Chloe Lewis, then got a groundout. Smith finished with six strikeouts and no walks.
After scoring 18 runs in its two wins Thursday over Black Hills and Aberdeen, the T-Birds struggled offensively. Through six innings, they mustered only three hits off senior Haley Graham, who also struck out six.
But in the seventh, trailing by 5-3, Tumwater did something it seldom had to do this spring because the T-Birds usually got large early-game leads: a late-game comeback.
With one out, Ashley Wells, the team’s No. 7 hitter, launched a home run over the left-center field fence to cut the deficit to 5-4. Kaleah Milligan followed with a single, but was stranded at first after a flyout by Alexa McDaniel and the hard lineout by April Wells to end the game.
“We’ve come back a couple of times this year, we knew we could,” Ashley Wells said. “We just had to find a way, but came up short.”email@example.com 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick