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UPDATE | Spartans rebound to win trip to state fastpitch tournament
It was fitting the Spartans faced off against their biggest rival Holy Names in a do-or-die game with a chance to play in state on the line.
Bainbridge High had recently defeated Holy Names in a thrilling extra-inning game to win the Metro League Championship game back on May 11, so in the loser-out game on Thursday, there was a sense it was again going to be close.
In their first game of the district tournament, the Spartans fell to Mount Si 3-6. It was their first loss of the season for Bainbridge, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. The loss put the Spartans in a tough spot because in order to earn a trip to the state tourney, they had to win two consecutive games.
“I think the loss was a good reminder to us to play hard,” said Bainbricatcher Emily Schneider.
First the Spartans had to get through Bishop Blanchet.
BHS had outscored Blanchet 30-2 in the three games they had played against them this season, and the district game was no different as the Spartans won in five innings, 11-1.
Then it was deja vue all over again. The win set up a Metro League Championship rematch against Holy Names.
“It was ironic for sure that we played them again,” said pitcher Katie Raben.
Both teams came out ready to play in the first inning. Holy Names came out using the sticks, and scored two runs off Raben.
The Spartans, however, didn’t show any signs of nervousness after falling behind. Erin Kinney said they had come back before against Holy Names in extra innings so they knew they could do it.
“Two runs don’t really faze us, especially against Holy names,” said Schneider.
Alison Reichert and Hailey Willmann led off their half of the first inning for the Spartans with singles up the middle.
After a bunt to move the runners over and a strikeout, Raben came up with two outs and runners on second and third.
Raben, who had been clutch at the plate in recent games, again came through when she hit a line drive just out of reach of the second baseman.
The Spartans hit a double, and the pinch-runner who ran for Raben slipped rounding third.
Then a hit by pitch gave the Spartans another opportunity to score more in the first with two outs and Schneider up to bat with the bases juiced.
Schneider lined one up the middle, and after with a close play at the plate, the Spartans scored two more and the Spartans jumped in front 4-2.
“I love batting eight or nine,” said Schneider.
The score remained 4-2 until the bottom of the fourth when Erin Kinney ripped a two-RBI triple into the right-center field gap.
“It felt good off the bat,” Kinney said. “It is great to hit behind runners and get them in.”
BHS went on to score two more runs in the inning and had an 8-2 lead after four.
Holy Names refused to give up. They added a run in the top of the fifth with a home run, and in the sixth Holy Names had Raben’s number.
Holy Names smashed the ball into the gaps, and then followed with few lucky breaks on balls that weren’t too hard but found the right spot.
When the top of the sixth was all said and done Holy Names, had cut the score to a one-run game, 7-8.
“We usually just win our first district game and go to state, but this was a little stressful and we knew we had to work harder,” said Spartan Erin Kinney.
The score remained 7-8 going into the seventh inning, and even after a rough sixth inning Raben seemed very focused in the seventh.
“(Schneider) and I decided to change it and be spontaneous, and just let our defense work,” Raben said.
Raben and Schneider’s plan in the seventh paid off and the Spartans didn’t allow Holy Names to score and the Spartans once again earned a spot at state.
“Sometimes a loss can be good,” Raben said. “We had to work hard and fight to get that final spot.”
After the final out Raben and Schneider — who had been battery for 10 years — gave each other a huge hug.
The Spartans have been the runner-up at state the past two years and although they are excited to have made it again, they still have work to do to reach the ultimate goal of bringing back a state title.
The state tournament takes place on May 25-26 in Lacey.