A group of area softball players took their final swings in their high school uniforms Wednesday and gained a measure of solace for a lost season.
Some 22 recent high school graduates, representing seven Southwest Washington schools, participated in a senior all-star game Wednesday night at the Montesano High School field.
A team coached by Hoquiam’s Keith Reynvaan and Adna’s Bruce Pocklington (a Hoquiam High grad) defeated a squad directed by Elma High coach Ashley Stancil and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley’s Ken Olson, 11-5. But no individual statistics were compiled and the outcome of the game was decidedly secondary to the overall experience.
“There were a lot of smiles on the field when they were playing,” said Montesano High School coach Pat Pace, who helped organize the event. “You could tell the girls were really enjoying playing again. (Montesano outfielder) Abi Parkin said,’I will relive this day again and again.’ “
All high school spring sports were canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While disappointing to all high school athletes, the cancellation was particularly felt by the softball community. Southwest Washington teams have dominated state softball competition for the better part of two decades.
“I think the kids were more resilient than some of the parents,” Pace said. “But I had girls who were very sad and were sad for multiple days.”
Once the high school season was officially shut down in late April, several coaches brainstormed in an effort to find a suitable climax for their senior players.
“It was a group idea,” Pace reported. “As soon as the season was canceled, we formed a text group and we came up with a senior game.”
Montesano, Elma, Hoquiam, Forks, Tenino, Pe Ell-Willapa Valley and Adna seniors were invited to participate in the game. About 90 percent of the invitees, according to Pace, actually suited up.
The game itself represented the final chapter in a three-act ceremony on Wednesday.
The event began with letter-of-intent signings for players intending to continue their careers in college. Elma’s Quin Mikel (who will play for Mount Hood Community College), Kali Rambo (Lower Columbia) and Olivia Kain (Grays Harbor College), Hoquiam’s Maddie German (Everett), Montesano’s Janessa Otterstetter (Wenatchee Valley) and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley’s Katie Adkins (Centralia), Katelyn McGough (Lower Columbia) and Britney Patrick (St. Martin’s University) were the Twin Harbors players participating in this portion of the event.
All 22 players were then honored in Senior Night ceremonies.
Hoquiam’s German, who delivered multiple hits, was making her first appearance in a Grizzly uniform since 2018. She missed her junior season due to injury.
Intricate preparations were devised to meet safety guidelines for players and spectators alike.
All players were required to fill out a COVID waiver before participating and wore masks when not on the field. All players and spectators had their temperatures taken once they entered the complex, with no violations reported.
Seats were reserved (via nameplates) in Montesano’s grandstand for parents of the players. Grandparents were seated in lawn chairs adjacent to the left-field foul line, with siblings and other spectators allowed to view the action from beyond the outfield fences. Social distancing guidelines were observed in all cases.
The feedback was positive enough that Pace hopes to make it an annual event even after the pandemic passes.
“There were no boos, no arguments with the umpires. I think people were just happy to play again,” the Montesano coach concluded. “It doesn’t erase what happened. But I think they got a little closure.”