LACEY, Wash. – Shadle Park’s final inning against University as a 3A softball rival was a memorable one on Saturday.
Seemingly unaffected by the fast field turf at the Regional Sports Complex, the U-Hi infield played stellar defense, rarely allowing a ball to get by and holding down the Highlanders until late in the state matchup.
But in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the Titans defense finally cracked. Trailing 3-2, Shadle’s Laurie Jones hit a sharp ground ball to U-Hi’s second baseman, who bobbled the throw home, allowing Brittney Gately and Leslie Jones – Laurie’s twin – to score the final runs in the 4-3 win in the consolation bracket semifinal.
“It’s hard when they’re this hot, it’s this long; they’re tired,” Shadle coach Guy Perham said. “Getting them motivated, that’s a rivalry thing. U-Hi is a good team; they’re the quality of the GSL. Beating them at this venue, at this time is huge for us, it’s huge for the program and it’s huge for the kids – that’s what it’s all about.”
The Highlanders were scoreless until the fifth inning, but kept within striking distance thanks to the pitching of Gately and Jaya Allen. The pair combined to pitch all five games in the two-day tournament but seemed to get stronger as the contest went on, while their opponents simply tried to keep Shadle at bay.
“Instead of playing to win, we played not to lose. We didn’t execute, let’s be honest,” said U-Hi coach Jon Schuh. “Congratulations to Shadle. They came in and never died, they just kept on pushing, pushing, pushing and we sat back on our heels.”
The win over its Greater Spokane League rival put the Highlanders into the consolation final against Prairie, which the Highlanders won 4-3 to finish in third place.
While U-Hi and Shadle Park will still compete in the GSL next season, the Titans will do so as a 4A school.
The only loss of the tournament for Shadle Park (20-10) was to Kamiakin during Saturday morning’s championship semifinal. The Highlanders fell behind early in a 13-3 loss.
Kamiakin beat Enumclaw later 4-2 to win its third consecutive 3A title.
University (21-8) beat Bainbridge 3-1 to set up the matchup with Shadle.
U-Hi was 3-1 against Shadle heading into Saturday’s game. But the Highlanders beat the Titans on Saturday and in the district title game two weeks ago.
“Just getting here is fun,” Perham said. “Looking at the accountant’s face when she told me it cost $2,700 for the bus – I didn’t care. The kids deserve it, they deserve the trip, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Go on the bus, have fun, get some money to buy meals, bond with your team – that’s worth going. Winning is the cherry on the top.”