SPOKANE – Walla Walla High School marched into Saturday’s semifinals here in action at the Merkel Sports Complex Friday in the first two rounds of Class 4A state championship competition.
Wa-Hi came from one run down in the seventh inning to squeak out a 5-4 win over Lake Stevens in the opener.
Behind Brandi Schoessler’s work in the circle, the Blue Devils defeated Tahoma 5-1 in the quarterfinals Friday evening.
That set up Saturday morning's showdown with Bethel, which the Blue Devils won 7-4.
Wa-Hi plays Puyallup, a 5-0 victor over Woodinville Saturday morning, at 5 p.m. today for the state championship.
“We’re so excited,” senior catcher Jacie McDaniels said. “First of all, people didn’t even think we were going to come to state. And now we are through (to the semifinals). We’ve got to keep going.”
Wa-Hi 5, Lake Stevens 4
The Blue Devils dug themselves a 2-0 hole before coming to bat in their state opener. A squib single from Amie Browder followed a walk and an error and produced two Viking runs.
“We had some nerves,” Wa-Hi coach Kate Keyes said of the Viking first. “We had a tough first inning, but we didn’t let that get to us, we settled in.”
A slap opposite-field double from Emma Sweet started the Wa-Hi third and produced the first Blue Devil hit off Rayne Sylvester. Keziah Doyle followed with a triple to chase Sweet home and narrow the Viking lead to 2-1.
“We pull up kids that have worked hard all season long,” Keyes said of Sweet and Doyle. “These kids have been with us the last three weeks. When the opportunity comes, you give them the chance to step up, and they did .”
Ellie Rassbach, in the Wa-Hi circle, settled in after a rocky first, and the Blue Devils came to bat trailing 2-1 in the home fourth. Jordy Storm led off with a single, one out later Jacie McDaniels singled and with runners now at second and third and two outs, Whitney Enriquez delivered a two-run single and Wa-Hi had its first lead at 3-2 after four.
A Sylvester double got the Vikings even at 3-3 in the fifth, and Rassbaugh lost the strike zone, as she walked three consecutive Vikings to force in the go-ahead run.
“I was struggling with putting too much pressure on myself,” Rassbach said. “I was trying to make these perfect pitches so they wouldn’t hit the ball hard.”
Rassbach regained her control and pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh. The Blue Devils came to their last at-bat down 4-3.
“We were right where we wanted to be with the top of the lineup,” Keyes said of the seventh. “We said, ‘Take care of your at-bat, do your job at the plate, it’s going to take everyone’.”
Maddy Aichele singled to right to start the Blue Devil seventh. Lauren Likes followed with a single to center. Storm went opposite-field for a single to left and Wa-Hi had the bases loaded with no outs and Likes at second representing the winning run.
Rassbach stepped in and lined a Sylvester fastball to right. Aichele scored from third and Likes scooted home without a throw and the Blue Devils were through to the quarterfinals with a 5-4 win.
“I know I have to keep it simple,” Rassbach said of her clutch at-bat. “I know there is no pressure on me because I believe in the person behind me. I was looking for something fast, in the zone, and I was just going to take a hack at it.”
Wa-Hi 5, Tahoma 1
It was a better start for the Blue Devils in their quarterfinal matchup with Tahoma.
The Bears’ leadoff hitter, Mia Corbin, slapped a single to center, and tried to steal second, but senior catcher McDaniels gunned her down.
Schoessler retired the next two Bears and Wa-Hi opened the home first at 0-0.
“We knew she was going to steal,” McDaniels said. “I was like, ‘We’ve really got to get her’.”
In the home first, Likes tripled to the right-field fence with one out. Rassbach plated Likes with a single, and McDaniels ripped a double to left to score Rassbach from first, and it was 2-0 Wa-Hi after one.
“We heard about their first game ( a win over Redmond), and that made us nervous,” McDaniels said.
“But after the people in front of me hit, I was like, ‘I gotta step up’.”
“We rolled our momentum from the first game right into the second,” Keyes said. “We got after them and put some runs on early.”
Schoessler didn’t need many. The sophomore faced the minimum with two outs in the fourth. Morgan Engelhardt broke the streak, but Schoessler took a 4-0 lead to the sixth.
The Blue Devils tacked on two in the third as Kate Ferenz legged out a bases-loaded swinging bunt to get Likes, who singled earlier in the inning, home for a 3-0 lead.
Doyle worked a bases-loaded walk and Schoessler had a 4-0 lead.
The Bears scored on a RBI single by Engelhardt in the sixth, but Wa-Hi got it back in the home sixth on a Storm groundout.
“I was a little worried (when they scored),” commented McDaniels. “But, I knew we would come back and get it.”
“We answered back to anything the other team has shown us,” Keyes added. “It’s been really good to see.”
But this one belonged to Schoessler. Schoessler completed a perfect seventh to march Wa-Hi into the semifinals. Schoessler finished with a four-hitter, fanned 11, walked none, but hit one batter.
“She threw an outstanding game,” Keyes said. “I don’t even know what you can say. She was in absolute control.”
“She was calm. That was the best game I’ve seen her throw,” Schoessler’s catcher McDaniels said. “She had it all under control. It was all her. She did great. I’m so proud of her.”
Wa-Hi 5, Lake Stevens 4
Lake Stevens 200 020 0 — 4 6 1
Wa-Hi 001 200 2 — 5 11 1
Sylvester and Harney; Rassbach and McDaniels.
HR – none.
Hits: LS: Browder, Beaver, Sylvester 3, Shkurham; WW: Sweet, Doyle, Storm 2, McDaniels, Enriquez,
Likes 2, Ferenz, Aichele, Rassbach.
Wa-Hi 5, Tahoma 1
Tahoma 000 001 0 — 1 4 1
Wa-Hi 202 001 x — 5 10 0
Scott, Nance (4) and Sanders; Schoessler and McDaniels.
HR – none.
Hits: Tah: Corbin 2, Engelhardt 2; WW: Likes 2, Rassbach 2, McDaniels 2, Aichele 2, Ferenz, Leighty.