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University advances to State 3A softball

RICHLAND – Hannah Wesselman gained playing time this season when University first baseman Alex Douglas missed some games with an injury.

Wesselman put the extra cuts to good use.

Wesselman hit a one-out, three-run homer to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday to give the Titans a 3-0 win over defending state champion Kamiakin during the 3A regional tournament at Columbia Playfield.

The Titans (18-5) qualified for their fourth consecutive state tournament and 14th overall since 1996. U-Hi will begin the two-day tournament on Friday in Lacey.

Wesselman homered off an inside pitch from Braves starter Kate Austin, who had pitched five-hit shutout ball through six innings. U-Hi pitcher Brittany Hecker began the rally with a single. Brooklyn Tacke’s single to left moved courtesy runner Kendyll Rockom to second base.

“As soon as I saw (the pitch) I just wanted to jam it down the left fielder’s throat,” said Wesselman, who hit her third homer of the season. “I just wanted to turn on it and send it as far as I could.”

“ ‘Wess’ just went up there and let ’er rip,” U-Hi coach Jon Schuh said.

Hecker (17-4) pitched a five-hitter and had two of U-Hi’s seven hits.

“I just knew I had to go out there and pitch tough, being the great-hitting team that they are,” said Hecker, who will make her fourth consecutive trip to state.

Hecker singled out second baseman Taylor Morales for making a great defensive play to help her escape her biggest jam.

“Hecker pitched a fantastic game,” Wesselman said. “That was just beautiful.”

“She kept their big guns, their 3-4-5 hitters, kind of off-balance and we played great defense when we had to,” Schuh said.

U-Hi nearly scored in the sixth by drawing a throw to second base with a runner at third base. The oncoming Titan was called out at home, drawing a few words from Schuh.

“I’m not debating whether the ball beat her (to the plate),” Schuh said. “I was just debating whether the glove that had the ball in it ever touched her.”

Kamiakin bounced back and earned a return trip to state by scoring 11 runs in the sixth inning for a 13-3 win over Shadle Park (12-13). Carlie Richards’ three-run double to right gave the Braves a 7-3 lead.

The Highlanders led 3-1 after 4½ innings, but their drive for an 11th state appearance was derailed by poor defense in the sixth.

“Errors can be infectious,” Shadle coach Guy Perham said. “You make errors and the next thing you know there are a couple of hits, and the next thing you know everyone’s aboard the big wagon.”

Shadle reached the winner-to-state game with a 2-0 upset of North Central (18-5) as junior Brittney Gately pitched a shutout. NC had defeated the Highlanders 6-5, 6-1 and 6-1 this season.

“(NC pitcher Malia Wash) really had our number until that game,” Perham said. “In that game, we put the ball in play, we hit the ball and we played defense.”