RICHLAND – The Colville Indians came heartbreakingly close to their first state fastpitch championship Saturday.
And again, the Connell Eagles were the ones to break the Indians’ hearts.
Defending State 1A champion Connell, which last year dashed Colville’s title hopes in the semis, got a two-run double from Hope Sawyer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the final at Columbia Playfield, 4-3.
The Indians’ loss was tinged with reminders of last season, when Connell knocked Colville into the consolation bracket with a 7-6 victory in extra innings.
“We were so focused on the title, and we wanted Connell since last year,” said senior pitcher Jolene Rogers. “It’s hard, but in our hearts, we know we’re champions.”
Colville (23-4) steamrolled Cascade of Leavenworth 21-0 in the semifinals, while Connell downed Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 7-5 to set up the nail-biter of a title game.
After Connell was unable to score with the bases loaded in the eighth, the game moved to international tiebreaker rules, putting the last batter of the previous inning on second base.
Colville runner Jammie Madonna moved to third on a one-out double by Cassie Cote, then scored on a fielder’s choice to first to put the Indians ahead 3-2.
McKenna Cabbage grounded out to end the top half of the inning, and the Eagles (26-1) came up to bat with McKenna Mathis on second.
Having been acquainted with power hitter Ashley Thompson in last year’s state tournament, Rogers intentionally walked her for the third time, setting the stage for Sawyer.
The younger daughter of Connell coach Andy Sawyer sent Rogers’ 0-2 pitch skirting into the outfield, and Mathis and Thompson headed home to start the Eagles’ title celebration.
Though the Indians returned home without the big trophy, they did what few teams have done this season against the Eagles, holding them to single-digit runs and hits (six). Colville also matched its best state finish, as the Indians were 2A runners-up in 2010.
“This was the best season ever,” a choked-up Madonna said. “I’ve never been so proud of our teammates, and we couldn’t have had better coaches.”
Lakeside’s season finished with a 10-9 loss to Onalaska in the consolation semifinals. Onalaska scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to eliminate the Eagles (21-7).