Wa-Hi routs Hanford on senior day

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WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla High School closed out the regular season with a Mid-Columbia Conference softball sweep of Hanford here Friday.

Leading 3-2, senior Mattie Smyth led off the Wa-Hi sixth with a home run to dead center to spark a five-run rally as Wa-Hi pulled out an 8-2 win. The second game was all Blue Devils as Wa-Hi pounded out 16 hits and defeated the Falcons 14-3.

“We woke up in the second game,” Blue Devil coach Kate Keyes said. “It was nice to see us be consistent at the plate.

“She threw a little junk and the girls popped it up a lot,” said Keyes of Falcon first game pitcher Kayla De La Paz. “That didn’t help us and we made a lot of errors that kept them in the game.”

Pitching for Wa-Hi in game one, Ellie Rassbach survived several jams to finish with a three-hitter. Rassbach battled through fatigue in the win after having pitching nearly two complete games in a split against Richland Tuesday.

“I was a little tired — I pitched a lot on Tuesday,” Rassbach said. “It was a mental toughness thing for me.”

“Our defense didn’t help her a whole lot,” Keyes said. “She stepped up and made it happen when it counted on a day that she maybe wasn’t 100 percent.”

An unearned run gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead, but the Blue Devils got a two run double from Rassbach in the first to take a 2-1 lead. Jacie McDaniels plated Kendsey Hill, who doubled, in the third for a 3-1 lead.

Rassbach pitched out of bases loaded jams in the fourth and fifth to keep the lead.

“When runners got on base, I had to be even tougher,” Rassbach said. “I had to give my team ground balls that they could work with.”

The Falcons did it again in the sixth, except this time they scored to narrow the gap to 3-2. With two outs and the bases full of Falcons, Falcon Miranda Foraker battled Rassbach to a full count after nine pitches. On the tenth pitch, Rassbach got a swinging strike three to end the threat.

“Every time I stepped on the rubber, I focused on hitting my spot and not thinking about anything else,” Rassbach said. “I had one job to do and that was to hit my spot.”

Smyth answered with her lead off home run in the Blue Devil sixth and Wa-Hi scored four more — Hill knocked in a run with a sac fly, McDaniels knocked in one with a double, and Rassbach’s blooper into right field got two more home — to take an 8-2 lead to the seventh.

“That was awesome,” Rassbach said of Smyth’s blast. “I was so happy for her. She puts a lot of time in the cages. She deserved it.”

Wa-Hi took control of game two with four first-inning runs. Jordy Storm led off with a triple, Maddy Aichele singled her home, Hill singled, Rassbach picked up Hill with a sac-fly, Smyth singled, and Carly Clark culminated the uprising with a sac-fly.

The Blue Devils put it away with a six-run second. Aichele’s second RBI hit started the rally, McDaniels added a RBI single and Smyth doubled home one as Wa-Hi sent 10 hitters to the plate.

McDaniels blasted a two-run home run to highlight a four-run Wa-Hi third, and pitcher Kate Ferenz blanked the Falcons over the last three innings.

“She got better with every inning she threw,” Keyes said. “It was good to see and we have our two pitchers throwing well going into post season.”

The regular season finale marked senior day for Wa-Hi seniors Sydney Schultz, Jessica Norby, the injured Libbie Jimenez, Hill, and Smyth.

“The group of seniors have shown incredible leadership,” said Keyes, who is nearing the end of her first season as head coach. “They had a big role to play with the change in the program. They stepped up and created the culture of the team that they wanted to have.”

Wa-Hi, 12-2 MCC and 15-4 overall, hosts the district playoffs Saturday. The Blue Devils open at 11 a.m. against the winner of an elimination game between Pasco and Chiawana. A win earns a regional berth and a shot at Richland at 1 p.m. for the district title.

“I feel really good about our team,” Rassbach said. “As long as we play our game, at our pace, we can compete with any team out there.”

First Game

Hanford 100 001 0 — 2 3 4

Wa-Hi 201 005 x — 8 11 4

De La Paz, Patterson (6) and Nash; Rassbach and Hill.

HR — Wa-Hi: Smyth.

Hits — HHS: Patterson, Alaniz, Hall; Wa-Hi: Storm, Aichele 2, Rassbach 3, Hill, McDaniels 2, Smyth, Norby.

Second Game

Hanford 030 00 — 3 7 1

Wa-Hi 464 0x — 14 16 0

Patterson, De La Paz (2) and Nash; Ferenz and Hill.

HR — Wa-Hi: McDaniels.

Hits — HHS: Patterson 3, Foraker, Alaniz 2, Wilkerson; Wa-Hi: Storm 3, Aichele 2, Rassbach, Hill 3, McDaniels 2, Smyth 2, Clark 2, Likes.

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