YAKIMA — After surviving an extra-inning thriller against Wishkah Valley in the opening round of the state softball tournament, Touchet moved on to beat Curlew and secure a spot in the 1B Championship at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima on Friday.
After falling behind 1-0 against Curlew, the Indians responded with four runs in the bottom of the first. The top four hitters in the Touchet batting order all came up with hits and forced the Cougars to make a pitching change in just the first frame.
“The kids’ bats started off hitting the ball hard,” Touchet coach Gary Dorman said. “Everybody in the inning — we batted around plus one. Everybody put the ball in play.”
Indian pitcher Cierra Jo McKeown surrendered just one hit to the second hitter she faced. From there, McKeown was locked in, as she finished with 10 strikeouts in her six innings of work.
Both of Curlew’s runs came around on wild pitches, but Dorman was hardly concerned about McKeown’s control.
“Being a sophomore, she hasn’t pitched a lot in our games because we’ve had two seniors that are our go-to (pitchers),” Dorman said. “Cierra throws deceptively fast. She’s a little bit deceptive fast and she’s got just enough wild in her to give you happy feet.
“With the speed she has, the batters can be kind of timid in there against her occasionally,” Dorman added. “It was a real solid outing for her.”
After the Cougars’ second and final run came across, Touchet added to its lead in the fourth. Senior Harlie Schaeffer mashed a two-run single to make it 6-2, before fellow senior Morgan Cardwell hit a base-clearing triple. Another senior, Shelby Gould, ended the scoring by bringing in Cardwell with a single.
Makayla Bishop, another Touchet senior, also added three hits in the game.
“The seniors have just stepped up big,” Dorman said. “They have just kind of taken the team on their shoulders and done a really, really good job of providing leadership.”
In the tournament opener against Wishkah Valley, the Indians were held in check for the first six innings before scoring two in the top of the ninth to win, 4-3.
In the ninth, with Schaeffer on second, Cardwell unloaded on a ball to deep left field that hit the base of the fence to score Schaeffer and give the Indians a one-run lead. After a strikeout, Madison Fenton added to the lead with a two-out single that scored Cardwell and gave Touchet a two-run cushion.
“I thought that one was out,” Dorman said of Cardwell’s double. “The way it came off the bat — it charged out.”
Touchet’s starting pitcher, Bishop, needed the run support, as Wishkah Valley scored a run and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs. Bishop promptly forced a fly out, however, which ended the rally.
Bishop was in control throughout the game, as she allowed just six hits in nine innings of work. More impressively, she kept the score at 1-0, as the Indians’ offense had trouble against the Loggerettes’ starter Teagan Louthan.
“I was a little worried, but I knew eventually we would pull through because we always do,” Bishop said.
“Being a senior, having been here before, she’s just rock solid,” Dorman said of Bishop. “She’s going to compete whether it’s 1-1 or 20-1. I think the rest of the kids feed off of that a little bit.”
Bishop finished with 11 strikeouts in the game. Her counterpart — Louthan — held the Indians scoreless through the first six innings, as she racked up 11 strikeouts in that span.
But the Indians remained resilliant, as Bishop reached on an error to begin the top of the seventh. Following a pair of Touchet strikeouts and Bishop stealing second, the game came down to Fenton.
Fenton, a freshman, promptly laced a shot past the Wishkah Valley second baseman that easily scored Bishop and tied the game at one.
“I don’t know if she understands this is the state tournament or what,” Dorman said jokingly. “But she’s clutch. She has been a real pleasant surprise coming in as a ninth grader and being able to play at the level she does.”
After Bishop held the Loggerettes scoreless in the bottom of the frame, it was McKeown’s turn for the dramatics. She led off the eighth with a double over the head of the Wishkah Valley third baseman.
But she wasn’t done there, as a throwing error to third allowed McKeown to aggressively round third with a chance to score. As the dirt settled and the umpire signaled safe, Touchet held a 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth.
Wishkah Valley evened it on the strength of a two-out RBI double from Ally Ancich that narrowly missed the glove of Touchet center fielder Melissa Creek.
“I think that was our best game for the year so far,” Dorman said. “The kids never gave up. They got down by one and all of a sudden nothing was happening for us. We came through in the seventh inning.”
Touchet 4, Wishkah Valley 3
Touchet 000 000 112 — 4 6 3
Wishkah Valley 001 000 011 — 3 6 3
Bishop and Aceves. Louthan and S. Bernhardy.
Hits — Touchet: Bishop, Aceves, Fenton (2), McKeown, Cardwell. Wishkah Valley: S. Bernhardy, Ancich, Rurup, Louthan, Park, Ancich.
Touchet 12, Curlew 2
Curlew 101 000 — 2 1 3
Touchet 400 602 — 12 15 0
Fanning, L. Gibson (1) and H. Gibson. McKeown and Aceves.
Hits — Curlew: H. Gibson. Touchet: McKeown (2), Creek, Schaeffer (2), Bishop (3), Cardwell (2), Gould (3), Fenton, Aceves.