Sometimes slowpitch softball doesn’t get the same recognition as the other fall sports.
The Greater Spokane League has been playing slowpitch in the fall for 12 seasons, but until recently the league hasn’t had much competition statewide.
But more leagues across the state are adding slowpitch. Last year, Washington played its first state slowpitch tournament in more than 20 years – predictably won by a GSL team, though one not many expected as Mead beat Central Valley in the title game.
On Saturday in Richland, the GSL brought home the hardware again.
Mt. Spokane, which finished second in the regular season and in the league tournament to University, beat the previously undefeated Titans 10-4 at Columbia Playfields to lay claim to the title of state champs.
“It was huge for our program,” coach Carl Adams said at school on Tuesday. “It was really fun to see our kids enjoy it as much as they did. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – these guys having a good experience.”
“It was a fun experience,” senior infielder Ashton Cathey said. “Being there with all our teammates and having a good time and going out there and playing our game and being there for each other.
“We were like, ‘Hey, let’s do this for us.’ We worked so hard this year and we’ve been come together as a team so well.”
It was a total team effort.
Nine players banged out 15 hits – none for extra bases – as the Wildcats (20-5) pushed six runs across in the third and three more in the fourth.
“It was hit after hit after hit,” Cathey said. “And the big key for us … was having really good baserunning and hitting oppo. Getting those opportunities to go opposite field were huge.”
Junior Sydney Wiyrick and sophomore Linzee Thompson had three hits apiece for Mt. Spokane. Senior pitcher Kaleigh Bussiere added a pair.
U-Hi has won or shared the GSL league title since the league adopted the sport.
“U-Hi has always been our competition and for us to click … we did so many good things during that game,” Bussiere said.
Adams praised U-Hi’s team but said there was no extra pressure in the title game despite playing a league rival.
“They’re a good team,” Adams said. “If you have that chance (to beat U-Hi), you want to take it. But they’re just a good team all the time.”
The state tournament featured eight teams from four leagues: three from the GSL, two from the Greater St. Helens League and one each from the Mid-Columbia Conference, the Big 9 and KingCo.
“It’s fun to see the sport grow. Not just in our league, but statewide,” Adams said.
The Wildcats routed KingCo’s Lake Washington 18-0 in the first round and edged GSL third-seeded Central Valley 4-3 in a semifinal.
“It was really cool to see all these athletes from different parts of the state of Washington coming to one area and allowing us to go out and play each other,” Cathay said, before admitting she wanted to face a few more non-GSL teams.
“I was expecting to play more teams from different areas,” she said. “We basically went to Tri-Cities and played the teams we’ve already played. I was hoping to play others, just to experience how they played.”
There’s a culture of success at Mt. Spokane. The slowpitch players said there isn’t pressure to live up to other sports.
“I feel like the athletes and all of our coaching staff around here really put a lot of effort into their players as people, and growing as people versus tweaking some little tiny thing to go win this next game,” Cathay said.
“I don’t feel any pressure to be good,” Bussiere said. “Personally, I want to be good. It just helps that our other sports are good, too.”
Bussiere said her classmates were proud of their success.
“When I came back the next day from state everyone was (offering) congratulations,” she said. “I don’t think it was as big as basketball or football, but I hope it grows.”
“I told the girls after the game on Saturday, the culmination was great,” Adams said. “But what I liked most was us learning the nuances of the game – they just did a great job with that.
“It was a great experience for the girls and they’ll have that memory for the rest of their lives. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re looking for.”