YAKIMA — The Pe Ell-Willapa Valley Titans had been in this position before.
The Titans had been behind early in games before and always had enough offense to pull themselves out of it.
Unfortunately for PWV, the state’s top-ranked team — the Adna Pirates — weren’t going to let that happen.
PWV stormed back to nearly erase an early 6-1 deficit only to come up short, losing 9-7 to Adna in the 2B State championship game on Saturday at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
In a rematch of the 2B District IV title game held a week earlier — in which PWV won 7-0 — it was Adna that got off to a hot start. The Pirates (25-2 overall) scored just three batters in when Payton Aselton, who was aboard with a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a PWV error, scored when Skye Snow beat out a bunt for an infield hit. Two batters later, Adna’s Olivia Rodriguez drove PWV starter Olivia Matlock’s pitch to the right-centerfield gap to chase home two more runs and give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
PWV (22-5) scored a run in the bottom of the first when center fielder Katelyn McGough led off with a double and scored on senior Kamryn Adkins’ sacrifice fly to make it a 3-1 ballgame.
But Matlock was unable to keep the Pirates at bay as Adna scored a pair of runs with two out in the second, chasing Matlock from the circle.
Titans head coach Ken Olson brought in Adkins, who pitched a six-inning complete game in a 14-0 semifinal win over Kittitas-Thorp earlier in the day.
Rodriguez promptly doubled off Adkins to score Snow with the Pirates’ third two-out run of the inning, stretching the lead to 6-1.
In the bottom of the third, PWV began to chip away at the lead. McGough led off with a single and advanced to second on shortstop Katie Adkins’ ground out. With Kamryn Adkins at the plate, McGough stole third and came home on Kam Adkins’ single to right field.
Then lightning struck.
Down 6-2 with Kam Adkins on first and one out, Pacific League MVP Britney Patrick stepped to the plate and did what MVPs do — putting a charge into Adna starter Hailey Rainey’s 0-1 pitch and driving it over the right-field fence for a laser-beam line-drive home run that brought a roar for the capacity crowd.
Patrick’s impressive blast reinvigorated the Titans as they were back within striking distance at 6-4.
“She got a hold of one and she got it all,” PWV head coach Ken Olson said of Patrick’s blast. “It changed everything. … Now we’re thinking, ‘We’re back in this.’ Then, we let a couple of runs get away.”
Adna’s offense kept the pressure on Kam Adkins and the Titans, scoring a run in the top of the fourth on senior Ruby Bower’s one-out single and a run in the fifth on another Rodriguez double to go up 8-4.
As bad as it was being down four runs in the state-title game, PWV’s fortunes could have been worse if not for some heads-up defensive. With the sacks full and one out in the fourth, Adna’s Emily Silva hit a grounder to Adkins who threw home to catcher Grace Hodel to cut down a run at the plate.
Olson said regardless of the score, his team felt confident throughout the game.
“There’s a lot to be said about the veteran leadership,” he said. “I never felt like the kids were thinking to themselves, “We’re not going to win this.’ They felt they could come back and put some runs up. … There was no quit in this team.”
PWV climbed a little closer with two on and two out in the fifth and Patrick at the plate. The junior third baseman came through again, this time with a sharp single to score McGough and Katie Adkins and cut Adna’s lead to 8-6.
Matlock followed and singled to right field, but a throwing error on the relay from Aselton to third base allowed Patrick to score, cutting the Adna lead to 8-7.
But with Matlock on second representing the tying run and one out, Rainey got Hodel looking and Jeorgi Ritzman on a come-backer to end the rally.
After holding the Pirates to just their second scoreless inning of the game in the sixth, PWV had a golden opportunity to gain the lead when pinch-hitter Reagan Portmann singled with one out and was followed by a McGough walk to put the tying and go-ahead runs on board in the bottom half of the frame.
Katie Adkins then ripped at line-drive that looked to be headed for a run-scoring single when Adna third baseman Kaylee Ashley snared it and threw across the diamond to double-off McGough at first for an inning-ending double play.
The Pirates tacked on another run in the seventh and threatened to add to its lead with runners on the corners and one out, but Kam Adkins fielded Ashley’s squeeze bunt cleanly and threw home in time to cut Snow down at the plate. Adkins fielded a second straight squeeze attempt without error and give PWV a chance at a state title, down 9-7 heading into its final at-bat.
But for the first time in the game, Rainey managed to get through the heart of the Titans’ order unscathed, getting Kam Adkins and Patrick on successive groundouts and Matlock on a flyout to center field, ending PWV’s hopes of a state title and kicking off a celebration for the Pirates.
After a disappointing loss, Olson reflected on a district-title winning season and the loss of seniors Kamryn Adkins, Hodel, Morgan Coady and Ellie Little.
“Its tough to lose those four seniors. They are special and we’re going to miss them for sure,” he said. “This was a good group of great kids to coach. This game has to be fun and our kids made it fun for me.”
Adna 330 110 1 — 9 16 1
Pe Ell-Willapa Valley 103 030 0 — 7 8 1
WP — Rainey (7 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 8 H, 5 K, 3 BB); LP — Matlock (1.2 IP, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 H, 2 K, BB)
Top Players: PWV — Patrick (2-4, 2R HR, 2 R, 4 RBI); McGough (2-2, 2B, 3 R); Kam. Adkins (1-3, 2 RBI; 5.1 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 3 K, 3 BB); Katie Adkins (1-4, R); Matlock (1-4); Portmann (1-1). Adna — Rodriguez (3-4, 3 2B, 4 RBI); Rainey (3-4, 2B, 2 RBI); Snow (1-3, 2B, 3 R, RBI); Emma Eko (3-5, 2B, R); Keaton Dowell (2-4); Emily Sliva (1-4, 2B, R).