Bailey Bergdahl soaked up the scene as Central Valley claimed its first regional softball title last Saturday, realizing that the memory would mean more than the win itself.
“My favorite moment of the year was just the looks on all of our faces when we won the regional game,” CV’s senior shortstop said. “The win was good, too, but just looking over at our coach and him jumping high in the air, and all the girls hugging each other. It’s just the cool feelings and moments like that that really make everything worthwhile.”
The regional championship validated a Bears program that will make its second consecutive appearance at the State 4A tournament, which begins this morning at Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane. CV (17-4), riding a nine-game winning streak, will open at noon against Olympia (19-5).
Second-year Bears coach Joe Stanton preaches a team-first strategy to a roster loaded with nine seniors, six of whom start.
“Our batting averages are average,” Stanton said. “We don’t have any stellar numbers. Our RBIs are average. It just goes to show you that it’s a team effort.”
“None of us has an outstanding batting average or anything like that, but the way we work together and the way it all plays out gets us to where we need to be,” senior third baseman Tia Pau said. “That’s how we win games.”
Since a 1-0 loss on April 18 to North Central – the team that tied CV for the Greater Spokane League title – the Bears have outscored rivals 64-15, with four shutouts.
Team members agree that CV’s success is based on the veteran players’ long histories together.
“A lot of us have been playing together since middle school,” senior center fielder Missy Hoffman said. “So we’re connected and we’re willing to give all we have to each other. We have each other’s backs and we trust each other, and that’s why I think we got so far.”
“We mesh as a team and you can tell,” senior left fielder Kaitlyn Richardson said. “When it comes to game time and practice time, we are a team. There’s not much bickering and we know we have to get the job done.”
Stanton said his players frequently gravitate to his classroom to talk softball: scores, standings, brackets.
“They’re just softball kids … they live and die for the game,” he said. “That’s what all our conversations are about.”
This year’s GSL title was the Bears’ second in 24 years. CV also won the District 8 4A title – a rarity but not a first – but the regional title had eluded the Bears until last weekend in Richland.
“We were nervous and we put all we had out there, and that was a big moment for us,” Hoffman said. … “Every goal we’ve set so far we’ve made.”
CV is making its fourth appearance at state, but just its third in 17 years. The Bears figure to have fewer jitters because of their experience from last season, when they won three of five games at state.
“Part of the state tournament is that mental preparation,” Stanton said. “Going in, already having played (last year), we know what to expect.”
Stanton has the option of using two talented pitchers.
Junior power pitcher Carli Riordan (10-2) has been CV’s ace, but senior Carissa Sdao (7-1), who also plays right field, gives opponents a different look.
“I’m pumped,” said Richardson, a four-year varsity player. “I’m ready to show them who CV softball is, to show them that we can do this and we’re here to win.”