The Kamiakin Braves softball team was a family first, long before it donned the red and yellow uniforms of the Kennewick school.
With a core of six seniors that has played together for much of the last eight seasons, the Braves set the bar high after winning state championships in 2012 and 2013.
Now they have accomplished something no other Class 3A or 4A team has done a third consecutive state title.
Kamiakin (24-2) defeated Enumclaw 4-2 in the championship game Saturday at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey for its 12th win in a row at the state tournament.
The Braves did it against an undefeated team with a highly recruited pitcher who made it the pre-tournament favorite of many a west-side fan.
But Kamiakin coach Tim Bisson had full confidence in his club.
I wouldnt have bet against us. This team just battles, and we did what we had to do to win, Bisson said. We felt like we should have won them all, to tell you the truth.
Melanie Oord was one of the days many heroes. The senior third baseman stepped up in the bottom of the fifth and, with her team trailing 2-1, delivered a two-run double to put the Braves up 3-2.
From there, freshman pitcher Emiley Moore held off the Hornets (28-1) with two scoreless innings. In the seventh inning, Enumclaws Quinn Breidenbach, who hit three home runs during the tournament, came to the plate with two outs and a runner on first before sending a line drive into the outfield. But Kamiakins Jenna Castilleja covered a lot of ground to track it down and end the game.
It was pretty special. Every year has been different. Ive been a part of three (state titles) now, said Bisson, who earned the first as an assistant to Tammy Hutchison in 2012. Getting the first one was great. The second one, nobody expected us to do it because we didnt have that dominant pitcher. This year was a culmination of everything.
Moore was particularly impressive, considering she spent most of the season on junior varsity. Shell sleep well knowing she helped her senior classmates go out in style.
Senior first baseman Emily Bensons memorable day included a tape-measure three-run home run in a 13-3 semifinal win over Shadle Park, but shell never forget the last game she spent in uniform with her teammates.
Weve all been playing together since we were 10 years old, she said. Id say the toughest part was staying focused and playing together. For us seniors, there were some moments where we could have gottem really emotional, but we had to keep it together.
Class 4A: Upstart Walla Walla fell short of a championship bid but earned a lot of respect after losing 4-2 to Puyallup in the title game. The Blue Devils defeated Bethel 7-4 in the semifinals to reach its third final over the last four seasons.
Puyallups Natalie Joyner provided some insurance in the fifth inning, lacing a two-run triple to right center field for a 4-1 lead.
Richland took third place the hard way, winning five consecutive games after a round one loss to secure their second trophy finish in three years.
Richland beat Moses Lake 2-0 to start the day, then took down Woodinville 5-2 before finishing with an 11-1 thumping of Bethel.
I have to give credit to our four starting seniors (Kayla Andrews, Reilly Bramlett, Maddy Jones and Courtney Kent). They really came to play this weekend, Richland coach Casey Emery said. When our top hitters werent doing what theyve done all year, those four stepped up and had a great tournament.
Kent saved the day against Woodinville, who led 1-0 in the top of the first before Kent rapped a three-run double to put the Bombers ahead for good in the bottom of the first. She finished the game with four RBIs.
Andrews was a rock in the circle, pitching all but one of 19 innings on the day. She had 21 strikeouts and earned the win in all three games.
In the trophy game, Bramlett and Jones each had a pair of hits and three RBIs to lead Richland.
Only two teams can walk off the field having won their last game, Emery said. A lot of people felt we had the best team there. Unfortunately, once you lose, you cant win state.
Richland 000 101 0 2 9 1
Richland 000000 0 0 1 3
WPKayla Andrews. HighlightsRichland: Andrews 3x3, 8 Ks; Courtney Kent 2x3; Alicia Maul 2 RBI.
Woodinville 100 000 1 2 7 1
Richland 401 000 x 5 8 0
WPAndrews. HighlightsRichland: Abby Perryman 2x4; Stephanie Merwin 2B, RBI; Courtney Kent 2B, SB, 4 RBI; Maddy Jones 2x3.
Bethel 000 01 1 3 2
Richland 031 34 11 11 1
WPAndrews. HighlightsRichland: Merwin 2x3, 3R; Kelsey Hinkley 2x2, 3B, 3R, 2 RBI; Jones 2x2, 2B, 3 RBI; Reilly Bramlett 2x3, 3 RBI; April Utecht HR, RBI; Andrews RBI, 7 Ks.