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Prep softball: Almira/Coulee-Hartline looks to use Inchelium loss as motivation heading into district tournament

Every sports fan has heard the phrase “good loss” and, typically, the kind of talk that follows is about providing the team that suffered said loss an opportunity to refocus and a reminder to take it, as the cliché goes, one game at a time.

For senior pitcher Sarah Bradshaw and Almira/Coulee-Hartline, a loss to Inchelium in the 2018 1B regional title softball game was the third, and final, defeat of the season that culminated with a state title.

On May 4, ACH suffered its first loss of this season in the district title game, again to the Hornets. Bradshaw, a first-team All-Northeast 1B selection in 2017 and 2018, hopes that, similarly, that setback will prove to be a springboard to a second consecutive State 1B championship.

“Honestly, it would have been great to win the district title, but I think that was a good wake-up call,” Bradshaw said. “We can’t take anybody lightly.”

Perhaps more important, the rest of the remaining field shouldn’t take the Warriors lightly. They are making their 11th consecutive trip to state and have placed fourth or better in eight if the past nine seasons, including four seconds, two thirds and last season’s championship.

Impressive as the program’s recent history might be, what coach Graham Grindy’s team had done this season has been equally spectacular. ACH, which plays Colton in the regional title game on Saturday, is 21-1 while outscoring its opponents 336-34 – winning six games by at least 20 runs and two by 31 or more – no small feat for a team that plays every game with a huge target on its back.

“Trying to focus on one game at a time and setting small goals along the way has helped,” Grindy said.

Having an ace in the circle hasn’t exactly hurt, either. Bradshaw, the reigning WIAA Athlete of the Week, is 13-1 this season with seven shutouts to lead a squad that is allowing fewer than 1.6 runs, while winning by an average of more than 10 runs, per game.

“Sarah holds herself to a high standard and works at trying to perfect what she does,” Grindy said. “She has developed into a great competitor.”

That ambitious nature has bled over into other areas of Bradshaw’s life. She is a competition singer (from country to classic rock to opera), a three-sport (volleyball, basketball and softball) athlete and she plans attend Corban (Oregon) University, which has challenging requirements for admission, in the fall, studying forensic psychology and continuing her softball career.

Considering her prep career in a small-school environment, Bradshaw believes that her club softball team, Canes Fastpitch out of Ellensburg, will help further prepare her for life as a collegiate athlete.

Bradshaw throws a fastball that hits 60 mph on the radar gun, a couple of change-ups that come in at about 45 mph, a drop ball and a screwball that breaks in on right-handed batters. Beyond that, though, she can win with her bat and tremendous work ethic.

“I believe she has just started to scratch the surface regarding her capabilities,” Canes pitching coach Dave Burgess said. “If she continues to work hard, her growth will be substantial.”

While Bradshaw gets the majority of the recognition for ACH’s recent successes, she knows she can’t do it by herself and, fortunately, she hasn’t had to. Seniors Sydney Cook, Gabi Isaak and Mikayla Rushton provide additional productivity and leadership, and juniors Makenna Oliver (CF) and Kendel Correia (C) have been key cogs in the field and at the plate.

“I’ve tried to really show the girls that all of us are 100% equally needed on the team,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve been the girl on the bench before, not necessarily in softball, but in volleyball and basketball, and I know that I felt the feeling of not being out there scoring. I realized, without those girls out there in practice, like running basis for us and everything, we wouldn’t get anywhere. But they’re the ones who really push us in practice. And, unfortunately, they may not get all the playing time they’d like.”

Judging by the results, that approach has paid off for the Warriors.