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Softball | Bainbridge back for title run
Bainbridge second baseman Hailey Willmann still wears the green team bracelet she donned during the team’s 2009 state title run.
The rubber bracelet is inscribed with the message: “Whatever it takes,” which became the team’s motto after its regular-season loss to Holy Names last year.
Willmann, an all-Metro selection, will enter Bainbridge’s state tournament opening-round game against Capital at 1 p.m. Friday with the same mantra.
As a sophomore, Willmann holds a unique leadership position along with teammates Taylor Greenfield and Cali Moore. They were the only freshmen on last year’s state championship squad.
“I think it’s our job to show the younger girls that we’ve been there, and we can do it,” Willmann said, “and to teach the younger girls that they don’t have to be nervous.”
The trio anchors the right side of the Bainbridge defense. Willmann plays second base, Greenfield is at first and Moore patrols right field.
“The three of us have been playing together for so long – we played Little League together,” Willmann said. “The fact that we got to play together and we won state together, we formed a bond.”
With only two seniors on this season’s roster, Bainbridge has relied on the experience of its underclassmen.
“I think we have a lot of confidence in each other because we’re all playing and all on our game,” Greenfield said. “We have the ability to beat anyone. If we’re going to keep being confident with each other there shouldn’t be any pressure personally.”
Willmann and Greenfield appeared in 27 games for the Spartans last season, batting .250 and .217, respectively.
This season, Willmann is averaging .467, second to team leader Caitlin McCormick’s .471. Greenfield is hitting .373, while Moore is batting .379.
After winning a state title, Willmann, Greenfield and Moore have brought back a great deal of the team’s state tournament experience.
“It showed us that it’s possible [to win state], and it’s really good to start off on a high point and have that be our goal for the rest of our years all the way through,” Greenfield said.
Bainbridge enters the tournament as the third seed from the SeaKing District – the same berth it earned last year.
The Spartans defeated Kennedy – the two-time defending state champion – 6-1 in the first round a year ago.
“That was the first push we needed,” Greenfield said. “It was our first game at state and that sort of shows we can do this. That’s in our grasp; we can get there.”
The Spartans will need that same offensive burst to advance deep in the tournament.
The Spartans could potentially see Holy Names – the 2009 runner-up – in the semifinals. The teams have split their meetings this season.
“I think we have the potential to beat them every time,” Greenfield said. “I think we had an off game. It was always unfortunate, especially during district games.”
Staying focused, especially in high-scoring games, is key, Moore said.
“We get ahead by maybe four or five, or we kind of zone out a little bit when they score their runs, and then we’ve got to get back,” she said.
Metro MVP Haylee Baker, who threw against Holy Names in both the teams’ meetings, is 9-1 on the season. Baker and senior Lauren Reichert will be on the mound for the Spartans this weekend, Bainbridge coach Liz McCloskey said.
Road through districts
Bainbridge lost its only district game to 2009 runner-up Holy Names May 21.
After leading by four, Bainbridge allowed five Holy Names runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Spartans answered to tie the game and force extra innings, but Holy Names’ two runs in the bottom of the ninth sent the Spartans to the consolation bracket.
“Those games that we lost were really close,” Moore said. “I think they were good for us because state games are really hard, so I think that since we’re such a young team, we need people to get used to that.”
Facing elimination in the consolation final, Bainbridge routed Nathan Hale – the team that had dealt them their only Metro Tournament loss – 10-0.
“We weren’t finished, and I knew we weren’t finished,” McCloskey said.
With the win, Bainbridge secured its state berth, and took on Bellevue.
Bellevue took the early 1-0 lead, but Bainbridge knocked in three for the 3-1 lead.
The Wolverines rallied in the top of the seventh, driving in four runs, but Bainbridge added three more scores to nab the third seed.
“My kids never backed down,” McCloskey said. “It shows what we can do offensively. We swing the bat hard.”