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3A STATE: Raben hurls two shutouts; Spartans make semifinals
LACEY – Last season, the only appearances Katie Raben made in the state tournament was as a courtesy runner as Bainbridge won three in a row to make the finals.
This season, Raben is the catalyst in the Spartans' march to the finals.
The sophomore pitcher threw two complete game shutouts as Bainbridge defeated Peninsula 8-0 and Mt. Spokane 6-0 at the 3A state fastpitch tournament at the Lacey-North Thurston Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey Friday.
It's the third straight year the Spartans have qualified for the semifinals.
Bainbridge plays Kelso, who won the last two 4A fastpitch titles before moving down to 3A, at 9 a.m. Saturday. The winner of that game faces either Juanita or Bellevue at 2:30 p.m. for the title.
In the two games, Raben gave up just one walk and four hits. She struck out 18.
“I was pretty calm,” Raben said. “I knew my team was behind me 100 percent and my coach has that confidence in me so that helped me to not be nervous.”
Head coach Liz McCloskey said they are a better team defensively when Raben is in the ring.
“She belives in her(self) and we believe in her so that gives her the confidence to go out and throw her game," she said.
Her batterymate Caitlin McCormick said she didn't have to do much to keep Raben on track.
“(I told her) if you throw hard and hit your spots, you will get past any team,” she said. “We just came out really wanting to win (today).”
It took a while for the Spartan offense to get going, but they finally broke through in the fifth inning against the Seahawks in the first game.
Cali Moore singled, then was sacrificed to second by Emily Schneider. She eventually scored on a base hit by Clara Dunn, who took second on the misplay by the Peninsula centerfielder.
Dunn scored off a base hit by Hailey Willmann. Erin Kinney followed with a base hit to score her.
The Spartans pushed five more across in the sixth.
Moore got things started with a double, then Alison Reichert blooped a base hit to centerfield to score her.
After Dunn walked, Willman singled to load the bases. Kinney followed with a base hit to drive in two, then Taylor Greenfield doubled to score two more.
Against Mt. Spokane, Bainbridge had trouble putting runners across again, as they loaded the bases in the fourth but were denied.
They finally got through in the fifth as Schneider singled, then Reichert hit an infield single.
After Dunn popped out, Willman drove one in on a infield base hit. Kinney hit another infield single to score Reichert.
The Wildcats nearly countered in the sixth when Jessica Reed got on base via a infield single while Kaileene Krauth reached on an error that put runners on at second and third with two outs. But Raben got Samantha Mendez to pop out to McCormick to end the threat.
Bainbridge added some insurance runs in the seventh as Dunn reached third on a throwing error, then was driven home by Willman when she doubled.
Greenfield scored her on a base hit, then Raben helped her cause by driving a pitch to centerfield for a two-run home run.
“The fly balls and the pop-ups were killing me, but you have to be patient and encourage these kids and trust that they are going to do their job,” McCloskey said. “They know what they have to do to get runs on the board.
Despite the youth of the team – only two are seniors – McCloskey said their experience in past tournaments is a big factor in their success.
“These kids come to state and they don't back down,” McCloskey said. “They know we're here to win games and do a job."