By Cary Rosenbaum | Special to the Independent
SPOKANE – South Kitsap played at sun up, sundown and most of the time when there was no sun at all Friday under the gloomy eastern Washington skies at the State 4A Fastpitch Tournament here at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex.
Worn out after a three-game trek through three of the state’s top teams that included the program’s first postseason win since 2002, three Wolf seniors broke into tears when their season culminated with an 8-2 loss to Central Valley.
“It’s going to be hard leaving them,” said shortstop Alissa Buss, the athletic fielder and aggressive leadoff batter. “We fought really hard and the girls played their hearts out.”
“We played really hard all season with no regrets,” pitching anchor and cleanup hitter Ashley Chamberlin said. “The girls were great; I’m really going to miss them.”
But not all of the tears stemmed from sadness. What South (18-7) accomplished this season was nothing shy of special — and none of the leadership was shy about sharing why.
A change at head coach following a 2012 state tournament appearance that resulted in a punishing 32-1 outscoring over two games brought the 2013 team together under the hard-nosed coaching of Jessica Cabato.
“It’s different this year,” Chamberlin said. “We have a lot better coaching.”
Cabato, a standout pitcher over a decade ago at Central Kitsap, used her collegiate playing and coaching experience to help shape the team to the standards that led to her success.
“I took this team with a lot of unhappy girls,” she said. “But, over the course of the season, I taught them to play with each other, and play for each other - and that was our biggest achievement this season.”
Nothing exemplified her coaching grit more than the substitution of senior center fielder Kayla Clauson following a dropped catch that led to a run in the fourth inning of the final game. The tension with the then-7-2 deficit looming could have been cut with a knife. Initially upset with the move, Clauson stormed through the dugout. She later regretted her actions and stood in proximity to her coach in support of the team for the what looked to be the remainder of the game, when — in the top of the seventh inning, with the final out on the line — Cabato substituted Clauson for what would be the team’s final at bat of the season.
Clauson broke into tears following the finale, stating, “I’m proud to say I was on this team. We had our ups and downs this season, but I wouldn’t want to play with any other girls.”
Cabato singled out Clauson’s batting toughness, Chamberlin’s pitching effort and Buss’ fielding over the course of the tournament. “My seniors had amazing weekends,” she said.
Central Valley 8, South Kitsap 2
The elation from South Kitsap’s previous win carried over into the final game of the night, as the team performed a vocal rendition of Foreigner’s, “Feels like the first time,” prior to game start. That start, however, was late 45-minutes, as Central Valley fell short in a winner’s bracket marathon match to state runner-up Camas.
Shortly thereafter – when the Spokane team’s scoring began - all smiles from the Wolf dugout quickly went away. The still-warm Bears found ways to notch at least a point in each of the first six innings against a cold South Kitsap offense and crumbling defense en route to an 8-2 win.
“We had a couple errors that scored and we needed to string more hits together,” said Cabato, whose team committed as many errors as it had hits: 6.
Headlining the Bear offense was Carissa Sdao, who hit a 2-run homer and an RBI-double. All together, five separate Bears brought a run in.
“We made the plays when we needed to, and that’s what separated us,” Central Valley shortstop Bailey Bergdahl said.
The Cougars capitalized on a fielding error to start the game as Kaitlyn Richardson was moved over by Kiara McCoy’s sacrifice and then scored by Sdao’s double.
A two-out strikeout by Kenzie Adams that was lost by Drew Camacho led to a run in the second, as McCoy brought in an RBI via a double.
Back-to-back-to-back doubles in the third by the 7, 8 and 9 batters Tia Pau, Natalie Ford and Adams opened the game up with two runs. A Wolf pitching change occurred the next inning following the aforementioned home run.
South got on the score board in the fourth inning as Ashley Chamberlin drilled a lead-off home run to make it a 4-1 game. Fans dubbed her the new “Helga,” presumably for her power. In the sixth,
Hanna Spohn brought in the team’s final run on an RBI-single.
“I thought South Kitsap had some big sticks in the lineup,” Central Valley coach Joe Stanton said.
“We had to play defense to keep them off our heels.”
Aside from the errors, the defense played fairly stout. Tessah Tremper’s double play highlighted the game, as she caught a bullet down the third-base line and threw out an advancing runner at first.
Early in the game, two Wolf seniors went down with injuries, but both stayed in the game. Kayla Clauson crashed into the fence in center trying to snag a ball — one that was ruled a double, much to the dismay of the Central Valley entourage. In the second, Chamberlin took a liner to the shin following a pitch.
Notes: Mackenzie Bergstrom, who subbed in for Clauson, was 1-1 with a run before being subbed out for the final at bat. … The Wolves stranded six runners to the Bears’ 4. Chamberlin had three strikeouts and reliever Madison Watson had two.
South Kitsap 8, Bothell 5
South Kitsap and Bothell traded punches in a back-and-forth match that led to a resilient comeback by the Wolves for an 8-5 win that featured the day’s first touch of sunlight.
Unlike the first game, the Wolf dugout came alive, which assisted in the team’s sixth-inning rally from a 1-run deficit to a 3-run lead.
“We had more energy and were a lot more upbeat; talked a lot more,” said Kayla Clauson,
whose first-inning single led to a 1-0 lead when Hanna Spohn’s hit to centerfield went bobbled.
Clauson led the Wolf attack going 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs. Six of her teammates also accumulated hits.
“We definitely were hitting better, even in innings we didn’t score,” South coach Jessica Cabato said.
“That’s a very good team we lost to — a class organization,” Bothell coach Rob Luckey said. “They put the ball in play and when we had to, we didn’t.”
After pitching a 5-3 first out to start the game, Ashley Chamberlin lost touch with her pitching en route to three-straight walks. A Camille Weisenbach double to follow brought two runners in immediately after.
“The first inning was a definite struggle,” South Kitsap coach Jessica Cabato said. “Ashley’s never walked three-in-a-row all season.”
The Cougars got off to a hot start in the second on a base hit, before Wolf shortstop Alissa Buss started a 6-4-3 double play to cease momentum.
Chelsea Foster, the Wolves’ No. 9 batter, blasted a lead-off solo shot in the third that helped build momentum for a 3-run inning and 4-2 lead.
“It was a huge swing in our way,” Cabato said of the homer.
Back-to-back doubles followed by a fielding error led to Bothell recapturing the lead in the fifth, as three runs scored to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
The sixth inning Wolf rally started when Haley Romo led off with a single and was advanced by a Shelby Reyes sacrifice. An error led to a close call at home with Romo safe, before a Tessah Tremper single, Alissa Buss base-on-error and Clauson double capped off the 4-run inning.Weisenbach added a two-out double in the bottom of the seventh.
Notes: Ashley Chamberlin struck out two Cougar batters. Bothell left seven batters on base to South Kitsap’s four. The Cougars tallied seven hits.
Arlington 4, South Kitsap 0
The hype around Arlington’s soon-to-be Division I pitcher Ronnie Ladines proved true in a 4-0 win over South Kitsap, but the Wolves’ impressive defense kept the team in proximity to the eventualstate champions.
Ladines struck out 14 batters, including 8 of the first 12, en route to what looked to be a shutout, before Shelby Reyes hit a 2-out single in the seventh.
“(Ladines) is tough, she moves the ball very well,” said South Kitsap coach Jessica Cabato, who recalled a game earlier in May where Ladines struck out 17 in a shutout win over Snohomish. “The rise ball and up pitches led to a lot of unproductive outs.”
While Ashley Chamberlin did not record a strikeout in the game, the Wolf defense came through with big plays to help slow down the Eagle offense.
“It was a real confidence builder,” Cabato said.
“South Kitsap’s a very good team, we were only able to score 4 runs,” Arlington coach Dan Eng said.
It was almost as if the Eagles knew they had to be aggressive to come out with the win. On nearly all of the team’s seven hits, Eng subbed in pinch runners in attempts to steal or force an error – and it paid off more often than not.
“I respect them, totally,” Eng said. “They fought until the end with very good determination.”
South Kitsap had just enough chances to tie the game, as four batters got on the entire game.
Ashley Chamberlin drew a base on balls in the second, Alissa Buss got on via a fielding error in inning three, Haley Romo was hit by a pitch in the fourth and Reyes’ single rounded out South Kitsap’s offensive production.
Arlington scored early on a Lynsey Amundson single to jump out to a 1-0 lead. The Eagles scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings on a Katelyn McDonald single, Hayden Fields double and Katelynn Kazen sac fly, respectively.
Notes: Arlington totaled six hits, while stranding five runners. Ladines signed a letter of intent to play for Kent State University next year in the Mid-American Conference. Arlington defeated Camas 2-1 in the State 4A Fastpitch Tournament Championship.