Familiar finish for regional title-winner Blue Devils

Wa-Hi wins the regional tournament much like it won the district last weekend, with a 9-2 win over Big Nine foe Richland.

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SPOKANE - Last Saturday, Wa-Hi and Richland squared off in the district championship game.

Fast forward one week, and the Bombers and Blue Devils met at Central Valley High School for the Regional 4A softball title.

Alyson Ambler pitched a no-hitter as the Blue Devils blanked Mead, 4-0, to open Regional action and earn a shot at a second consecutive Regional crown.

Wa-Hi fell behind Richland, 1-0, but powered back to defeat the Bombers - just as last Saturday - 9-2.

The win improves Wa-Hi to 23-1 on the year and sends the Blue Devils to the state tournament here at Merkel Sports Complex Friday to defend their 2011 state title.

"We are very ready for this (state tournament)," Blue Devil sophomore first baseman Ellie Rassbach said. "We've been preparing for this the whole season. Most of the girls have been playing softball for six or seven years, and it comes down to this (the 16-team state tournament)."

Wa-Hi 9, Richland 2

The Bombers got off to a hot start as left-swinging Bailey Walthers and Cydney Elgin singled to start the game. April Utecht singled home Walthers and the Bombers led 1-0 with Wa-Hi coming to bat.

"Usually, it takes me an inning to get ready," Wa-Hi starting pitcher Ambler said. "After that, it was like ‘Alright, one and they're done.'"

The Bomber lead lasted exactly two batters. Libbie Jimenez lined a single to center to lead off the Blue Devil first. Andrea Hamada followed with a towering blast over the left-field fence and Wa-Hi led 2-1.

"They came out strong and got a run," Hamada said. "We've seen their pitchers. Libbie gets a huge hit and gets things started for us. I was going up there knowing they were going to pitch me a strike and be aggressive in the count. Libbie got the energy going and it was good to do something to add to that energy."

"They are a tough team," Wa-Hi coach Jerry Humphreys said. "That first part of their order is always a little frightening. We were excited to see Libbie hit the ball hard and then Andrea came right behind her and crushed one over the fence. It took the air out of their (Richland's) balloon."

Kendsey Hill led off the Wa-Hi third with a single, her first of three hits on the night, and TraeAnn Payne drove her home with a one-out double for a 3-1 Blue Devil advantage.

Wa-Hi broke it open with a four spot in the fourth. Jordana Storm got the parade started with a double. Hamada got one home with a squeeze bunt and reached safely.

"I missed the first (squeeze bunt) one," Hamada said. "He (Humphreys) gave it to me again. I just had to put it in play, and it worked."

The squeeze brought Paige Goulet out of the Bomber bullpen, and with one out, Hill singled and Rassbach followed with an RBI single.

"We are comfortable with her (Goulet)," Rassbach said. "They changed pitchers three times and we hit off all three. That shows how versatile we are as a team."

Ambler drew a bases-loaded walk, and Hill looped a single to center to drive in a run in a two-run Wa-Hi fifth to increase the lead to 9-1 after five.

"The kids were just rolling from the first inning," Humphreys said. "We had lots of base runners. We were excited to see our kids just keep hitting the ball."

Ambler's pre-game may have been the key to her third win of the year over Richland. Although she was touched for a Utecht home run in the sixth, she finished with a complete-game, seven-hit, five-strikeout performance.

Ambler got ready with a dance routine between games, and it worked.

"I like to do it (dance), but I don't usually do it in front of a bunch of people," Ambler said of her routine. "It reminds me that it's just a game and we're here to have fun.

"I'd thrown a lot of pitches today," Ambler said. "It was great to use my defense. You have to throw a whole lot more pitches for strikeouts. They are a good hitting team and we weren't going to strike them all out. We went in and pitched them like last week (9-2 district title win)."

Freshman second baseman Storm led the Wa-Hi 14-hit attack with three hits, scored two runs and stole a base.

Wa-Hi 4, Mead 0

In the opener, it was all Ambler. Hamada caught a popup at third base and Hill, from her catcher spot, picked off a Panther base runner, and Ambler took care of the other 19 outs via strike out.

But it wasn't easy. Mead's freshman Kylie Bremner matched Ambler pitch for pitch and took her no-hitter to the Blue Devil fourth.

Hill tripled to lead off and Rassbach singled home Hill with all Ambler needed.

"I was waiting on the pitch and going with the pitch," Rassbach said of her hit. "I think we were already looking to the championship game and that's why the game got off to a slow start. But, we battled and came through."

Rassbach scored when Payne's hot shot eluded the Panther shortstop. A two-run sixth-inning Janelle Hartford double produced a 4-0 lead for Ambler to take to the seventh.

Wa-Hi only got four hits, but Ambler was simply too much. Ambler ended as she started this one by striking out the side in the seventh.

"That was quite a performance," Humphreys said of Ambler's pitching. "We struggled a little hitting-wise. It was a great time for her to come out and be incredibly dominant."

Wa-Hi 9, Richland 2

Richland 100 001 0 - 2 7 1

Wa-Hi 201 420 x - 9 14 1

Andrews, Goulet (4), Perryman (5) and Oleson, Utecht (4); Ambler and Hill.

HR: Rich: Utecht; Wa-Hi: Hamada.

Hits: Rich: Walthers, Elgin 2, Utecht 2, McCracken 2; Wa-Hi: Jimenez, Hamada 3, Storm 3, Hill 3, Payne, Rassbach, McDaniels, Heiser.

Wa-Hi 4, Mead 0

Mead 000 000 0 - 0 0 1

Wa-Hi 000 202 x - 4 4 1

Bremner, Seiger (6) and Kinder; Ambler and Hill.

HR - none.

Hits: Mead: none; Wa-Hi: Hill 2, Rassbach, Hartford.

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