RICHLAND — Walla Walla High School saw its softball season come to an end one win away from the state tournament here Saturday in regional softball action.
In the opener, Central Valley rallied from a run down to score three times in the top of the seventh and pull out an 8-6 win and secure a state ticket.
Mid-Columbia conference nemesis Richland squared off with the Blue Devils for the fourth time this season in a battle for the second state ticket.
Wa-Hi grabbed a 3-2 lead after one, but the Bombers scored 10 times in the fifth to win the state berth with a 12-3 win.
“It’s not how we wanted the day to go,” Blue Devil coach Kate Keyes said. “That’s the nature of regional play. You’re going to come against great hitting and great defensive teams.”
The opener was a see-saw battle.
CV scored in the third, but Kate Ferenz belted a home run just inside the left-field foul pole to get the Blue Devils even.
Mattie Smyth hit a bomb to left center and the Blue Devils grabbed a 2-1 lead after four. The Bears’ Carissa Sdao led off the fifth with a solo home run to even it at 2-2.
Ellie Rassbach dropped a two-out single down the right field line to drive home Maddy Aichele, who had walked, as Wa-Hi went back on top 3-2 after five.
A three-run, three-hit sixth gave the Bears the lead at 5-3.
Aichele’s run-scoring single and a two-run double from Kendsey Hill put Wa-Hi up 6-5 with three outs to go.
But it wasn’t to be, as the Bears used four walks, two Blue Devil errors, and a run producing single from Natalie Ford to score three times and claim the 8-6 win.
“We worked hard and stayed positive that whole game,” Keyes said. “It just didn’t go our way. (But) we didn’t play our best defense. We had some errors that hurt us bad.”
The Blue Devils had 30 minutes to forget the seventh inning and to recover from losing starting second baseman Jordy Storm, who was hit in the head with a pitch against the Bears, and could not answer the bell for game two.
Rassbach, in the circle again, hit Bomber leadoff hitter Abby Perryman and the second hitter, Stephanie Merwin, with the wind at her back, hit a two-run home run for a 2-0 Bomber lead.
The Blue Devils stepped up.
Aichele, hitting in Storm’s lead off spot, worked a walk. With one out, Jacie McDaniels singled, her first of three consecutive hits for the game, and Wa-Hi had runners at first and third.
With two outs, Smyth doubled off the right-field fence to score Aichele, and when the relay throw went astray, McDaniels scored. Carly Clark followed with a single to score Smyth and Wa-Hi had a 3-2 lead.
“The girls have an expectation of excellence,” Keyes said. “They weren’t going to give up on their goal for the season after game one. I was proud of them.”
Rassbach held the Bombers in check until the fifth. Singles from Perryman and Merwin, and a walk to April Utecht loaded the bases with no outs. Kayla Andrews drove a bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner, Perryman added a two-run triple, and the Bombers sent 13 hitters to the plate and scored 10 times.
This time the Blue Devils had no answer. Bomber lefty Paige Goulet retired the last six Blue Devils in order to end the Wa-Hi run.
Sydney Schultz, Jessica Norby, injured Libbie Jimenez (who is bound for Boise State), Hill (who will be attending Utah State), and Smyth all ended their Wa-Hi careers.
Wa-Hi saw a streak of four consecutive state trips come to an end, and the 2013 Blue Devils finish as district champions with an 18-6 overall mark.
“We had a very successful season,” Keyes said. “We battled with good teams and got better every day. We’ll sure miss the seniors, especially behind the plate (Hill). We missed Libbie. We wish we could’ve had her in the lineup all along.”
Wa-Hi, with the entire infield returning, and a pitching corps headed by Rassbach and Ferenz and freshman Brandi Schoessler, who made her varsity debut by retiring all six Bombers she faced, will be back.
RICHLAND 12, WA-HI 3
RHS 200 0(10)0 0 — 12 8 1
Wa-Hi 300 000 0 — 3 7 1
Goulet and Utecht; Rassbach, Schoessler (6) and Hill.
HR — RHS: Merwin.
Hits — RHS: Merwin 3, Hebky, Kent, Perryman 2, Andrews; Wa-Hi: McDaniels 3, Smyth, Clark, Schultz, Hill.
CENTRAL VALLEY 8, WA-HI 6
CV 001 013 3 — 8 10 2
Wa-Hi 001 113 0 — 6 8 3
Riordan and McCoy; Rassbach and Hill.
HR — CV: Sdao; Wa-Hi: Ferenz, Smyth.
Hits — CV: Sdao 3, Richardson 2, Adams, Ford 2, Pau, McCoy; Wa-Hi: Ferenz, Aichele 2, Smyth, Hill 2, Rassbach, Storm.