LACEY – The Spartans battled back from a first-round loss against the Warriors to crush the Rebels, then level the Hilanders, in the Washington State Girls 3A Softball Championships late last week.
But Bainbridge was swept up by some speedy Tornados on the second day of the state championships, as Yelm blew past the Spartans during their final game at Lacey’s Regional Athletic Conference.
Bainbridge finished 2-2 in the state tournament, and wrapped up the season with a 19-8 record.
And it was an impressive run this year, no doubt. The trip to Lacey marked Bainbridge’s 12th consecutive trip to State, and 13th overall. Team officials say the streak began in 2007, when Spartans Coach Haylee Baker starred as freshman, and the run is believed to be the longest current streak of state tournament appearances for a 3A or 4A school.
“The season was super, super awesome,” Baker said after the Spartans’ final showing this season, their 5-1 loss to Yelm.
“We had some bad games. And we had days where we were tired. But we were always able to bounce back,” she added. “And we came back ready to fight every single time. I’m super, super proud of the girls.”
The end of the season was bittersweet, with the major accomplishment of the state tourney tempered by the loss of five Spartan seniors to graduation: shortstop Sara Colley, first baseman Olivia Ditmore, second baseman Kensey Baker, center fielder Morgan Lassoff and catcher Maddie Loverich.
“We are super spoiled with this senior class. They’ve made our jobs super, super easy,” the coach said.
“All their team bonding, they’ve done on their own. And it’s all been with that senior class. They set an amazing example for the underclassmen. Now the younger kids know the expectation and have to rise to it,” Baker added.
The Spartans faced a formidable foe in their first game at state, the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors.
It was a game the Warriors won, 6-4, by outlasting the Spartans’ early struggles to find momentum in the tourney.
Knocked into the consolation bracket, BHS rallied to win their next matchup against Juanita, 9-4.
Baker said the Juanita game marked a mental change for the Bainbridge squad in the tourney.
“That was a huge game; night and day difference from Game One,” Baker said.
“I thought the first game we came out a little bit flat. I think we weren’t trusting ourselves; we were a little nervous, and we let the nerves get the best of us. We had a good heart-to-heart between games and we definitely showed up with a lot more energy — one through nine. Everybody was hitting, we were taking advantage of the pitching.”
“The energy; it’s a huge thing,” she added. “If you don’t show up with a lot of energy, it can really bring you down. We definitely turned it around that game and figured it out.”
The defense against Juanita was key to the win, Baker said, and freshman Anna Kozlosky at third base, especially.
“We had some really, really huge plays from outfielders, a couple good saves, so we made the big plays when we had to and we had solid defense.
“Anna was a rock star at third base; making it look like she does it in her sleep.”
Changing the team’s mindset after the opening round loss took some reflection and some straight talk between games.
“We can’t just be satisfied with being here,” the coach explained. “We’ve got to have that urge to win. Right now, in that first game, it kinda looked like we were all just happy to be here. And, I think, a little bit complacent, to be honest.
“I said we need to decide the character of this team. Do we want to compete? Or do we just want to have fun?
“Yes, winning is the majority of the fun part,” she added.
“One of the main things I told the girls during the break was: It can’t come from the coaches. It’s got to come from you guys. They got together and talked about it, and figured it out.”
Cracking the code bode well for the Spartans’ next game, against the Kelso Hilanders.
Bainbridge powered past Kelso in their third game of the day, 6-1.
Malia Peato was in the circle again for Bainbridge, and the Spartan hurler said afterward she lost count of how many pitches she threw over the course of the day.
One thing she was sure of: It was the most ever.
“My arms and legs are so tired,” Peato laughed.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” she added. “I think I could have hit my spots a little better, but other than that, I have complete confidence in my defense and they have my back the whole way.”
Beside an arm of tempered steel, Peato also had another thing going for her: the biggest rooting section for any player at this year’s state tourney.
While the Seattle Seahawks are famous for their 12s, Peato had a great showing of 13s at every game.
Scattered through the crowd, numerous shirts sporting the number 13 and Peato’s name on the back.
Peato said 13 has been her number since she started playing; her it comes from her birthday, Sept. 13.
“I’ve just stuck with it ever since,” she said.
Count the coach as another 13.
“Malia, I felt like the more tired she gets, the better she gets. Which is awesome,” Baker said.
Once again, against Kelso, the Spartans were strong from the start.
“I know that this group, as long as they show up ready to play, they’re going to be able to beat any team,” Baker said. “It was great seeing the progression throughout the day. We started out kind of weak in that first game, but turned it on the second game, started getting more consistent at the plate. Then this last game, really turned the bats on. That was really good.”
“I thought we had a lot of depth in our lineup; we did really well, one through nine. Hit when we needed to, and kept it consistent every inning. We were hitting the ball hard every inning, putting the pressure on and keeping the energy up,” the coach said.
A game highlight was Loverich’s grand slam against the Hilanders.
It was Loverich’s third grand slam of the season.
She admitted she couldn’t remember what the pitch count was. But the pitch itself?
“The pitch was like; you know when you see something in slow motion?” Loverich recalled. “It was the perfect pitch; it was good.”
The Spartan catcher didn’t realize the ball had gone yard, though, as the Kelso centerfielder backtracked all the way to the fence, and then some, falling over the fence as the ball hit another 5 yards beyond it.
Every grand slam is special, of course. But Loverich said this one — as a senior in her final trip to State — was something beyond.
“I started thinking about that when I got back to the dugout,” she said. “It’s kind of surreal; kind of crazy. But I’m super grateful.”
“She’s clutch with people on base,” the coach said of Loverich. “We definitely needed that. That was a huge play right there.”
In the final against Yelm, Bainbridge’s bats went silent when noise was needed. A lot of noise.
Yelm erased a 1-0 Bainbridge advantage with two runs in the second inning then piled on three more in the fifth and sixth.
Bainbridge’s only offense was in the opening stanza.
“They came out with energy this morning; they came out sharp. Defense was solid.
“We were hitting that pitcher pretty well, we just didn’t get the clinch hits we needed. But you’ve kind of got to tip your hat sometimes,” Baker said.
The Spartans played Yelm hard, she said, but the offense coming from Yelm’s Calli Jesmer, who had three RBIs, was just too much.
“Malia pitched a freaking great game. Besides that one inning, where they had that hitting rally,” Baker said. “That’s the nature of the game, besides that one inning, she was on the entire time and held them really close.”
“It’s a disappointing loss, but it was a good game. And these girls should all be super proud of themselves. They should be sad, just sad that we’re losing the seniors, but happy that we went out fighting.”