CENTRALIA – Fueled by a couple of long balls and one sensational catch, Montesano’s girls added more district hardware to their already bulging softball trophy case.
Lindsay Pace and winning pitcher Samantha Stanfield blasted two-run homers and center fielder Abi Parkin added a spectacular seventh-inning grab as the Bulldogs captured the 1A District IV softball title with a 5-4 victory over Castle Rock on Saturday at Fort Borst Park.
The Bulldogs (19-3 overall) were already assured of their 21st successive state appearance after securing a spot in the district championship on Wednesday. The reigning 1A state champions open defense of their title Friday at Richland.
Patient at the plate and borrowing successfully from Monte’s traditional small-ball playbook, Trico League champion Castle Rock (19-3) made things difficult for the Bulldogs throughout — a development that winning coach Pat Pace seemed to welcome.
“I think we needed to be pushed by a team at our level,” said Pace, whose team’s previous three losses came at the hands of upper-classification foes. “I’m very happy with the win. Anything we did wrong, we’re going to work on next week.”
The left-handed hitting Lindsay Pace, the possessor of considerable power to the opposite field, snapped a 3-3 deadlock with a two-run homer well over the left-field fence in the fifth inning. Peyton Poler, who had walked moments earlier, scored ahead of her.
That was the only Monte hit off Castle Rock’s Trinity Naugle in her three-inning relief stint.
Castle Rock’s Logann Golden trimmed the margin to one with a solo homer to left in the sixth.
That one-run advantage seemed precarious when Zoe Naugle led off the Rockets seventh with a drive into the gap In right-centerfield. But, shading Naugle in that direction, Parkin sprinted to her left and laid out for a diving one-handed catch — retaining possession as she crashed to the turf.
“You’ve just got to sacrifice yourself,” Parkin related. “Even if you don’t think you have a chance, you have to sacrifice your body to help the team.”
Staff ace Stanfield, who joined her teammates in racing to the outfield to mob Parkin in congratulations, promptly finished off matters by retiring the final two Rockets on a strikeout and infield fly.
This wasn’t the smoothest of outings for Stanfield, who had authored a no-hitter in Wednesday’s semifinal victory over Hoquiam. The senior right-hander allowed seven hits and an unusually high five walks.
But she seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, retiring seven of the final eight batters, Three of her eight strikeouts came in the last two innings.
“I definitely didn’t throw as well as Wednesday,” she said. “But the strike zone was way smaller. I tried to adjust a couple of times and by the end of the game, I adjusted.”
Stanfield helped her own cause with a somewhat freakish blow in the third inning.
With Poler aboard again, this time after a single, Stanfield lofted a towering drive to center. Rockets center fielder Rachel Anderson got her glove on the ball as she backed into the low-lying temporary fence, but lost her footing and the ball as she tumbled through the fence. Since the ball landed beyond the fence, it went as a two-run homer that gave Monte a 3-1 lead.
The Rockets capitalized on some well-placed bunts and a couple of Monte errors to tie it with a pair of runs in the fourth.
The Bulldogs mustered only six hits, with Poler and Matti Ekerson contributing two apiece.
Castle Rock 010 201 0 – 4 7 0
Montesano 102 020 x – 5 6 2
WP – S. Stanfield (7 IP, 7 H, 8 K, 5 BB); LP – T. Naugle (3 IP, H, 7 K, BB).
Lead Hitters: CR –T. Naugle (2 H, 2 RBI), Golden (HR), M – Pace (2R-HR), S. Stanfield (2R-HR), Poler (2-2, 2 R), Ekerson (2-3, RBI).