Both the Elma Eagles and Montesano Bulldogs begin their quests for championship glory as the 1A State Softball Tournament is scheduled to begin on Friday in Richland.
The road to a state title is never an easy one, but both the Eagles and Bulldogs — ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state, respectively — have excellent opportunities to bring home a state title.
Here’s a preview of the opening-round games for the Bulldogs and Eagles.
1A State Tournament
Montesano vs. Coupeville
Montesano doesn’t know a whole lot about its opponent in the opening round of the 1A State Tournament, but Bulldogs head coach Pat Pace welcomes the uncertainty.
“I like playing new teams,” he said. “I like paying teams that possibly don’t know as much about us, just like we don’t know much about them. It kind of puts us on an even slate. We’ll just have to see how things go that first game.”
Coupeville finished the season with a record of 14-8 and won the North Sound Conference this season.
The Wolves enter the state tournament as the No. 2 seed coming out of District I and can credit a lot of its postseason success to Sarah Wright. The senior slugger is batting a team-leading .625 with 32 RBI and four long balls this season.
Monte will also have to be careful when facing Veronica Crownover, who is batting .455 with 32 RBI and a team-high five homers.
The Wolves have a tendency to play in some high-scoring games as well. Coupeville’s primary starter, Isabelle Wells, has an ERA of 6.67 in 77 innings pitched and the team’s second starter, Scout Smith, had an ERA of 6.04.
The pitching workload for Monte has been placed solely on the right shoulder of Lindsay Pace. Pace has pitched 109 2/3 innings thus far this season and if all goes according to plan, will be the only pitcher Monte throws during the state tournament.
Coach Pace said he expects her to be ready for Coupeville.
“She’ll pitch against Woodland (on Tuesday) for us and we’ll give her Wednesday off. Thursday she’s just going to work on her spin, then Friday she’ll be ready to go.”
After an atypical day at the plate in a 4-1 loss to Castle Rock in the 1A District IV championship game on Saturday, Coach Pace thinks the bats will be ready to go to.
Monte spent this week of practice focusing on a more patient plate approach, with the coaching staff reinforcing to its hitters that they shouldn’t look to pull pitches on the outside corner.
Jessica Stanfield has been one of the more dangerous hitters in the lineup this season with 33 RBI and eight homers, both of which lead the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs also have two players who have collected hits more than half of their at-bats with Lindsay Pace and Matti Ekerson batting .561 and .514, respectively.
“District IV represents itself very well at the state tournament. There’s been a team from District IV in the top four in each of the last 20 years we’ve gone. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that there’s a great opportunity for a District IV team to come away with a state championship trophy.”
Monte opens its state-playoff run at 10 a.m. on Friday at the Columbia Playfield in Richland.
Elma vs. Warden
Elma will be facing a young team that’s coming in hot on the heels of winning a district title when the Eagles face Warden in the first round of the 1A State Tournament at 10 a.m. on Friday in Richland.
The Cougars’ road to state included a tight 2-0 victory over Cle Elum-Roslyn and a more dominant 13-1 victory over Royal.
Warden hasn’t run into too much trouble this season and finished with an overall record of 21-2 despite relying on a lot of young talent to get through the season.
The Cougars have two seniors and five freshmen on their roster. Among the freshmen are two of Warden’s pitchers, Kiana Rios and Viri Gutierrez, who have pitched the majority of the innings for their team this season.
Elma has used its two pitchers almost equally, with Quin Mikel pitching 60 1/3 innings and Destry Dineen logging 59 2/3 innings this season.
Dineen has also made her impact felt at the plate as she batted .522 with 19 RBI this season.
Elma suffered a little bit of bad luck in the District IV Tournament when rain shortened its contest against Castle Rock with the Eagles trailing 3-1 in the fifth inning.
Elma head coach Roger Elliot was frustrated by the decision to call the game after it had originally just been postponed, but he said his players are using the situation as motivation.
“The girls are doing great. They are hitting the ball and working hard in practice,” he said. “They’re a little angry. It’s just something else to give them a chip on their shoulder.”
One of the players who has been heating up lately is Kali Rambo. The junior infielder is batting .460 with 11 RBI this season and went 5-for-5 in Elma’s 21-1 state tournament-clinching win over Hoquiam on Saturday.
Rambo said the last couple of weeks have been some of the best softball Elma has played all season.
“Everyone is stepping up. It’s not just the top of the lineup, it’s the bottom stepping up too. Even the freshmen are stepping in and doing their jobs,” she said.