SPOKANE - Wa-Hi came into the Friday-Saturday class 4A girls fastpitch regional tournament as defending regional champions, and boasting a 22-1 record, but smarting from its only loss of the year - a 2-1 district championship loss to Richland.
Wa-Hi raised its second consecutive regional trophy, and avenged its only loss, with a 7-2 win over the Bombers here Saturday afternoon in regional championship action.
The win sends the Blue Devils to the state 4A tourney, their second consecutive trip and third in four years, beginning Friday in Tacoma.
"It feels really good to have another one of those trophies," Wa-Hi coach Jerry Humphreys said. "Exactly (everybody did well)! We had a couple of hiccups in there, but the great thing is that we make a hiccup and somebody comes back and makes a big play. That's all you ask of them. It was perfect."
Wa-Hi defeated Gonzaga Prep 7-0 in Friday's opener, clinched a state ticket with a 12-6 win over Southridge Saturday morning, and claimed the title with the 7-2 win over Richland.
Richland, University and Kamiakin punched state tickets here in other regional play.
The Blue Devils have expectations of improving on last year's third-place finish.
"We have been waiting for 5/29 for 50 weeks," Wa-Hi senior catcher Vicki Reardon said. "We're ready!"
Wa-Hi 7, Richland 2
Last Saturday, Richland freshman southpaw Paige Goulet limited the Blue Devils to one run over eight innings and earned a 2-1 victory in the circle for the Bombers.
Wa-Hi was ready for her this time.
Jill McDaniels led off with an infield hit to start the Blue Devil first. McDaniels went to second on a Bomber throwing error, and went to third after Andrea Hamada's foul pop up was caught by Bomber second baseman Cydney Elgin. The ruling was that McDaniels left too soon and she was called for the second out of the inning.
Maybe that call irked the Blue Devils. Alyson Ambler lost one over the left field fence, and Hope Klicker followed with a blast over the center-field wall, and Wa-Hi led 2-0.
"We came in here much more calm (than last Saturday)," Klicker said. "We wanted some revenge and had our mind set to go after her (Goulet).
"That call (on McDaniels) was a little bit frustrating," Klicker added. "We're so competitive that a simple thing like getting someone called out gets the next batter mad. I could tell that Alyson was mad and was going to hit the ball. Once she set that tone, we got it going."
"It was (nice to get two home runs)," Humphreys said. "Al comes up and maybe gets a little wind assist on the first one, and Hope comes up and just pounds the heck out of the ball. The kids did a better job today of putting the big part of the bat on the ball and hitting it hard."
Ambler, in the circle for Wa-Hi, worked out of a one-out second-and-third situation in the first and made the 2-0 lead look good, as the Bombers were scoreless through five with only three hits.
Goulet, after the first, silenced Wa-Hi until the small ball attack chased her in the Blue Devil fifth.
Tarynn Fortune reached on an error to get the Wa-Hi fifth started. Ashley Bezdicek bunted for a base hit. Paige Pontarolo reached on her sacrifice bunt as Fortune beat the play at third. Alicia Baker worked a bases-loaded walk to force home Fortune, and ended Goulet's day as Lindsay Walchi took over in the circle and was greeted by McDaniels and Hamada with RBI singles. Klicker culminated the rally with a two-run single. The Blue Devils sent 10 hitters to the plate and scored four runs to take a 7-0 lead.
"I had faith in Tarynn to get it going and she did and everyone followed," Klicker said of the fifth. "Then we batted the whole lineup. It was an awesome thing. It defines this team that it is just a team effort."
Bethany Burch's run-scoring double highlighted a two-run Bomber sixth, but Ambler escaped without further damage. Ambler gave up a leadoff double to Bailey Walthers in the seventh, but retired the next three, the last by strikeout, to wrap up her second pitching win (she beat Gonzaga Prep Friday) of the regional.
Ambler finished with a complete game, six-hit, five-strikeout performance.
"We've seen them (Richland) so many times that we know where to pitch them," Ambler's catcher Reardon said. "We (Alyson and Reardon) spend half our time strategizing. The ball (Ambler's) was moving and the fast ball was coming. You couldn't ask for a better day."
Klicker's two hits and three RBIs, McDaniels' two hits, and Ambler's two hits paced the Wa-Hi attack.
The win avenged Wa-Hi's only loss and sends the Blue Devils to the state tourney with a 25-1 mark.
"It was fun to beat them after the experience we had last week," Humphreys concluded. "But they are a quality team and its fun to play a quality opponent. It was a great game."
Wa-Hi 12, Southridge 6
Wa-Hi roared back from a 3-1 deficit to post a 12-6 win over Southridge in Saturday's brunch special. The win punched the Blue Devils' second consecutive state tournament ticket.
"That's a pretty nice feeling to have back-to-back years," Humphreys said. "I was really proud of our kids. They gave up three runs and came back and scored five in the next half inning. It didn't bother them at all. They know what they can do. It was great to see them come through."
In a dual of lefties - Wa-Hi's Klicker and the Suns' Caitlin Klepper - both offenses were kept off the board until Baker started a two-out rally with a single in the Blue Devil third. McDaniels followed with a single in the right field gap, and Baker avoided the tag at home and scored to give Wa-Hi a 1-0 lead.
"I'm thinking I'm going to go as hard as I can," Baker said of her dash. "I'm going to score no matter what."
"She's so fast," McDaniels said. "I have complete confidence in Alicia to score from anywhere."
The Suns answered in the home fourth. A Klicker pitch grazed the top of Machaella Smith's helmet with two outs and the Sun rally was on.
A Kristin Ingalls single was followed by a Kacie Sams two-run double, and Michelle White singled home Sams and the Suns took a 3-1 lead to the fifth.
"They are a good hitting team," Humphreys said. "We left a couple of pitches out over the plate, and if you make a mistake, they're going to put the ball in play hard somewhere. And they did."
Good teams respond to adversity, and the Blue Devils did.
"We flat lined a little after we got one run," McDaniels said. "When they got three runs in that inning, it fired us up. We weren't going to lose this game (because) we wanted to go to state."
Baker got it started with a one-out single. McDaniels beat out a high chopper to get the tying run aboard.
"We know, no matter what, that we can hit the ball," Baker said. "We're going to hit and score."
Hamada singled in Baker. Ambler singled in McDaniels. Klicker singled in Hamada, and Reardon's short sac fly to shortstop scored Megan Ocanaz, who ran for Klicker, and Wa-Hi scored four runs on five hits, all singles, to gain control with a 5-3 lead.
"Carol P (Peterson) is in there (the dugout) yelling at us that singles win games," McDaniels said. "We've all been a little anxious to hit a faster pitcher (Klepper) after what we've been facing. "
The Blue Devil bats kept coming. Hamada tripled in a run, Ambler knocked in one with a single, as did Klicker, as Wa-Hi added three more in the fifth. McDaniels' two-run single and Ambler's two-run double highlighted a four-run Wa-Hi seventh, as the Blue Devils took a 12-3 lead to the home seventh and came home with a 12-6 win.
McDaniels' four hits and four RBIs led a 17-hit Wa-Hi attack. Ambler added four hits and Baker ripped three.
Championship: Wa-Hi 7, Richland 2
Richland 000 002 0 - 2 6 2
Wa-Hi 200 050 x - 7 8 3
Goulet, Walchi (5) and Burch, Mills (5). Ambler and Reardon.
HR - Wa-Hi: Ambler, Klicker.
Hits - RHS: Walthers 2, Cejka 2, Burch 2. Wa-Hi: McDaniels 2, Ambler 2, Klicker 2, Hamada, Bezdicek.
Saturday's First Game: Wa-Hi 12, Southridge 6
Wa-Hi 001 043 4 - 12 17 1
Southridge 000 300 3 - 6 5 5
Klicker and Reardon. Ca. Klepper and Lowery
HR - none.
Hits - Wa-Hi: McDaniels 4, Baker 3, Ambler 4, Hamada 2, Fortune, Bezdicek, Klicker 2. SR: Ingalls, Sams, White, Worley, Ca. Klepper.