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Titans return to softball Final Four

LACEY, Wash. – Perhaps it was the adrenaline of playing at the state tournament that got the best of University’s Brittany Hecker, but the junior pitcher seemed to shine the most during key moments of Friday’s opening day of the State 3A fastpitch tournament.

The Titans are back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2003 – when the program went on to win its first state title as a 4A school – after posting victories over Wilson (5-2) and Bonney Lake (11-3) at the Regional Athletic Complex. They’ll face Everett today at 9 a.m. with a shot to play in the 2:30 p.m. title game.

“Coming in here, I didn’t want to leave anything behind and I wanted to feel when we go home that I did the best I could for the team,” said Hecker, who totaled eight strikeouts and allowed a combined 11 hits in the two wins. “We worked so hard this season.”

While U-Hi won both its games, Shadle Park exited the state tournament – its first appearance at state since 2009 – with losses to Enumclaw (5-3) and Liberty (7-4).

U-Hi (22-3) grabbed a 3-0 first-inning lead against Bonney Lake, and followed it up with a seven-run third inning. The Titans sent nine batters to the plate, taking advantage of three Bonney Lake errors that led to three unearned runs, which gave U-Hi a 10-1 advantage.

U-Hi will play today’s semifinal without senior starting third baseman Sandra Cleveland. In the third inning against Bonney Lake, Cleveland was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct after she struck a Bonney Lake baserunner across the head after she slid into third base. Per WIAA rules, Cleveland is forced to sit out one full game.

Cleveland, who hits sixth in the lineup, was replaced by Destiny McCoy, who also will start at third today, U-Hi coach Jon Schuh said.

“There’s always a little speed bump, so maybe that’s the little bit of adversity we have to deal with,” Schuh said.

Shadle made its first state appearance since 2009, when current senior Alana Norman was a freshman. The Highlanders (15-12) committed seven errors in their 5-3 loss to Enumclaw.

“We aren’t the most talented team, but we have kids with a lot of heart,” coach Guy Perham said.

“We just didn’t play our best softball today.”

Shadle’s Denise Blohowiak had a two-run triple in the seventh against Liberty to cut the deficit to 7-4.

“That was our weakest game of hitting we’ve had in five or six games,” Perham said.