North Central was almost late to Herm Marshall’s final regional softball party. Undeterred, the Indians presented Marshall a most glorious gift, another trip to state, this one Friday at the 3A softball tournament in Tacoma.
It is NC’s fifth straight state appearance and of the five, this one was the most unlikely.
“I have no idea,” said Marshall with a laugh, when asked how the Indians accomplished it. “It was quite unique.”
The day began ominously with the bus not arriving, he said, so he asked for and received permission from school administration to drive cars to Richland.
“We got there 45 minutes before the first game,” Marshall said. “I was hot to start with and now we’ve got a loser-out game and we get there late.”
How did the Indians respond? By playing four successive games and winning three. Sophomore Echo Barline pitched all four, including her first shutout this year over Hanford in the state-qualifying game.
The biggest victory was NC’s first, a 4-3 win over Mt. Spokane in a loser-out game. The Wildcats had outscored the Indians 21-6 while winning twice during the regular season. Kasara Wise had three hits, driving in two runs and scoring the winner.
“Maybe it was the situation that got the kids high,” said Marshall. “They had so much energy and we came back twice and got the win.”
After losing the semifinal against Columbia Basin Big Nine Hanford 3-0, the Indians beat East Valley 11-1. Cheyenne De La Rosa started things with a bases-loaded triple. And they caught Hanford at the right time in their second meeting, winning 3-0. The Falcons were coming off an emotional 11-10 loss in the regional championship game with Shadle Park in which they had scored five runs in the seventh, but came up just shy.
“I can’t say enough about Echo,” said Marshall. “In four games she only walked two batters. She doesn’t throw hard, just gets the ball over the plate and if she’s in front, she’s pretty tough.”
Defense backed her, particularly shortstop Katherine Lively, who made several diving stops and threw runners out from her knees, he said. The Indians’ short game was superb and first baseman Danielle DeVleming, he said, nearly doubled her season hits total, getting six in the tournament.
Marshall is retiring from education at the end of the year. At the beginning of the season he hoped his final team would play .500 ball. At 12-13 they almost did. As a bonus, his long coaching career will end with one last state appearance.
NC plays Prairie at 9 a.m. and regional champion Shadle Park, which also beat EV, plays Port Angeles at 11 a.m. Friday at SERA Fields in Tacoma.
No 4A Greater Spokane League team advanced to state.
•2A: Pullman plays Selah at 10 a.m. Friday and district champion Colville plays Sequim at noon at Carlon Park in Selah.
•1A: Lakeside plays Toledo at noon Friday at the TRAC Complex in Pasco.
•2B/1B: Davenport and Garfield-Palouse have games Friday at 9 a.m.; Colfax vs. Tekoa/Oakesdale/Rosalia and Selkirk play at 11; Almira/Coulee Hartline, Colton vs. Inchelium and St. Michaels all play at 1 p.m. at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
In Cheney we trust
Cheney had to replace more than 50 goals graduated from last year’s State 2A soccer runner-up. Twenty-three of those were by the prolific Mitch Weller.
No sweat – eight veterans and as many newcomers have guided the Blackhawks back to the state semifinals this week in Sumner. They beat Bellingham 2-1 in two overtimes, a team that Cheney coach Steve Davis said was more talented than his Blackhawks.
“On that day the boys fought and came back and believed in themselves,” he said.
Belief and trust is critical, said Davis, returning from the Coast on Monday following a weekend of unwinding on the water.
Cheney plays Prosser at 8 p.m. Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner. It is its third trip to the final weekend and 12th state appearance overall, the ninth since 1996.
Paul Holloway and fellow team captain Bryce Parkinson, said Davis, came to him before the season, “came on early and said, ‘Coach, we want to make another run.’ There was passion in their eyes and belief.
“The returning players, after coming so close, believed they could make a run at it and would do like last year, believe in the younger inexperienced players and trust in them to reach the goal,” Davis said.
The Blackhawks are 17-2. Returnees Austin Walker and Holloway, who scored the winner over Bellingham on an assist from another veteran, Daniel Igbinoba, led the team in scoring.
Other returnees who hadn’t played much the season before stepped up, along with newcomers such as freshman defensive midfielder Evan Cook, and the Blackhawks are headed west again.
Davis has been coach for much of Cheney’s success, but he takes no credit. Tradition, dedicated players, an outstanding coaching staff – varsity assistant Mark Kiver, junior varsity coach Matt Pollack, C-squad coach Marisa Sheldon and volunteers Nels Radtke and Wade Nielson – and full commitment to the program by school administration have allowed the program to thrive.
“In life in general when you’re working with a group, sports or business,” Davis continued, “if you work hard together, commit to each other, believe in each other and trust in each other, there’s no limit to what you can reach.”
Can University’s Hank Frame and his 68.5 scoring average and Lewis and Clark’s girls break through? How will Mt. Spokane freshman Savana Bezdicek (75.8) fare in her debut?
Those questions and more will be answered Wednesday and Thursday during state golf on courses in the Tri-Cities and Yakima. 4A boys are at Canyon Lakes Golf Club in Kennewick and the girls are at Sun Willows in Pasco.
3A boys are at Meadow Springs Country Club and Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland. 2A boys and girls are at Apple Tree Golf Club in Yakima.
1A is at Columbia Point Golf Club in Richland and 2B/1B at Tri City Country Club in Kennewick.
State locations are varied for tournaments Friday and Saturday. 4A is at the Tri City Court Club and Kamiakin High in Kennewick; 3A is at the Vancouver Tennis and Racquetball Center; 2A is at the Nordstrom Tennis Center in Seattle; and 1A/2B/1B is at the Yakima Tennis Center.
Wilbur-Creston, in the 1B final against Touchet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Parker Field in Yakima, is the lone area team standing.
University (4A), Pullman (2A), Freeman (1A), Northwest Christian and St. George’s (2B) all lost regional finals.