It was apparent from the get-go that this game was going to be different.
For the Pe Ell-Willapa Valley Titans softball team, its friends and family, this one was going to be special.
PWV easily dispatched of No. 10 Rainier Saturday morning in the state semifinals, setting up a rematch against No. 1 Adna for the 2B State Championship Saturday afternoon at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
The Titans offense jumped on the Pirates early and senior pitcher Olivia Matlock sparkled in the final game of her decorated prep career as PWV (19-4 overall) won the 2B State Softball Championship 11-0 in five innings.
In their second meeting in a week after Adna (20-3) held on for a 14-13 win in the prevous weekend’s district title game, it was PWV that came out swinging early.
In the top of the first with one out, the Titans offense recorded five consecutive singles off Adna starter Karlee VonMoos, scoring a run each on base hits by Raegan Portmann, Dani Shannon and Grace Huber to go up 3-0.
“I really believe that changed everything,” PWV head coach Ken Olson said of the Titans hot start. “To go out there and hit the ball as hard as we did that inning, it’s everything.”
Staked to a 3-0 lead, a determined Matlock breezed through one of the state’s most potent offensive lineups, opening the game by retiring the first 10 Pirates she faced and only allowing two walks through the first four innings.
“I think it just set the momentum for us and made me fell a lot more confident. I had some room for error,” said the senior right-hander, who put her backdoor curveball and an excellent change-up to good use. “I knew how they were going to hit and their approaches (at the plate). So when each batter came up I just kept saying in my mind, ‘OK, I have to push through this pitch. I have to get them on this pitch,’ and stuff like that.”
“For Olivia, she’s had a couple of tough starts against Adna and for her, (the early run support) got her into the game a little bit. It’s huge,” Olson said.
In the fourth, the Titans broke the game wide open, scoring seven runs in the frame, all with two outs.
Titans third baseman Ava Bush singled to drive in Jillian Hodel and Merissa Frasier and was followed by a Dani Shannon two-run single, scoring Portmann and Bush for a 7-0 lead.
Adna pitcher Ava Simms replaced VonMoos in the circle, but it didn’t slow down the Titans as Huber then doubled to drive in Shannon.
After a single by catcher Payton Peterson, Huber came in to score on an Adna error off a Hodel bunt, putting the Titans up 9-0.
Two batters later, Peterson scored on another Adna error for PWV’s 10th run.
Matlock ran into a little bit of trouble when VonMoos and Brooklyn Loose opened the fourth with back-to-back singles. But the future Saint Martin’s Saint was not to be denied, working out of the jam and ending the inning when Sadie Burdick grounded out.
Matlock then put the exclamation point on the eventual state title, leading off the fifth with a solo home run to center field, her fourth home run of the state tournament, to give PWV an 11-0 lead.
Matlock struck out Gracie Beaulieu, got Alyssa Davis to pop out to Portmann at short, and induced Danika Hallom to pop out to back to her at pitcher for the final out, capping an 11-0 mercy-rule victory and 2B State Championship.
“I was filled with joy. It honestly felt like I was in a dream,” Matlock said after catching the final out. “It’s something I’ve never got to experience before and I’m glad I got to experience it.”
The victory also wraps up one of the most dominant tournament runs in section history. In its three state games this weekend, PWV outscored its opponents 31-0, winning all three games via five-inning, mercy-rule victories.
The Titans’ offense totalled 32 hits in the state tournament, led by Matlock (6-10, 4 HR, 4R, 10RBI), Shannon (5-10, 4R, 3RBI) and Huber (5-9, 2 2B, 4R, 5RBI).
“We had just a great performance out of the hitters in the lower half of our order and a lot of teams can’t state that,” said Olson, whose team hit up and down the lineup. “We hit completely one through nine. It was a hitting clinic.”
Matlock pitched all 15 innings for PWV, allowing no runs on nine hits with 18 strikeouts to just three walks in going 3-0 against state-tournament competition.
After getting roughed up in the first inning of the district championship game on May 21, Matlock held Adna scoreless over the final 9 2/3 innings she faced the Pirates.
“After the start she had last Saturday, she has a ton of pride and when she didn’t perform up to her expectations, she was upset. She got a chance to come back in (the district-title) game and she was lights out then. She was able to build off that, mentally,” Olson said of his ace’s performance. “She was absolutely not going to be denied yesterday and today. Good for her. She is the one person we depend on and she came through in fine colors.”
The victory was the first state title for the school since 2017 and the first appearance in the state-title game since a 9-7 loss to Adna in 2019, the last time a state softball tournament was played due to COVID-related cancellations.
“Some of my seniors played in the (state championship) game in 2019 and they didn’t taste victory,” Olson said. “I think the kids just did fantastic. There is not much more to say.”
“It just makes me happy,” Matlock said. “It feels like I closed out a chapter of my life positively and I’m very glad we got the opportunity to play this year and that our team was just lights out.”
The win was also the last for Olson, who announced his retirement in early May after 27 seasons and, with the state-title victory, ends his coaching career with 405 wins.
Trying best he could to focus on the game and adhere to the team mantra of, ‘One pitch at a time. One game at a time’ ahead of the first pitch, Olson said it was surreal realizing he was coaching in his final game.
“Everything I did today, it was the last time,” he said. “I was thinking at the time I wrote the lineup that this is the last time I’m going to do this. It’s kind of weird.”
Further compounding the sentimental nature of the game for Olson was his relationship with the Adna coaching staff, which he previously coached with during his time at Centralia, and the fact that his granddaughter is Adna freshman leadoff hitter Danika Hallom.
He didn’t know it at the time, but his team, which had been relatively tight-lipped about discussing the legendary coach’s imminent retirement, had a few words amongst themselves before the championship game.
“Toward the end of the season, we were just thinking about finishing our season as positively as we could,” Matlock said. “Once we got to this game today, we were like, ‘We’ve got to do this for Ken. It’s his last game ever and it would end his career on such a high note.’”
“Now I’m a little choked up, I didn’t know that,” Olson said when hearing his team, unbeknownst to him, was playing for his happiness as well as their own. “We haven’t mentioned it all year in regards to going out on top and all that stuff. … We didn’t really have our sights set on the state championship, at least we never talked about it. We wanted to come over here and play our first game and beat somebody.
“We won the first one, then went up against Rainier and thumped them a little bit. Then to turn around and do this with (Adna head coach) Bruce Pocklington and the Pirates in my last year is special in so many ways.”
2B State Championship
PWV 300 71 — 11 14 1
Adna 000 00 — 0 2 3
PWV — Shannon (3-4, R, 3RBI), O. Matlock (2-4, HR, R, RBI), Frasier (2-4, 2R), Portmann (2-3, 2R, RBI), Huber (1-3, 2B, R, RBI), Peterson (1-2, R), L. Matlock (1-4), Hodel (0-3, R), Emery (0-0, R). WP – O. Matlock (5 IP, 0R, 2H, 4K, 2BB).
Adna — K. VonMoos (1-2), B. Loose (1-2). LP — K. VonMoos (3.2 IP, 8R, 3ER, 10H, K, BB). Simms (1.1 IP, 3R, ER, 4H, K).
2B State Semifinal
Rainier 000 00 — 0 2 1
PWV 200 08 — 10 8 1
Rainier — Earsley (2-3). LP – Elwell (4.2 IP, 10R, 7ER 8H, 3K, 2BB).
PWV — O. Matlock (2-3, 2 HR, 2R, 5RBI), Portmann (2-3, 2 2B, R), Huber (1-2, 3RBI), L. Matlock (1-3, R, RBI), Frasier (1-2, 2R), Shannon (1-3, 2R), Bush (0-2, R), Hodel (0-1, R). WP – O. Matlock (5 IP, 0R, 2H, 7K, BB).