All season, Kamiakin softball coach Tammy Hutchison has told her team to seize the moment.
For the battery of Lindsey Kamphuis and Jessi Miracle, no moment is more important -- or urgent -- than now.
They have gone to state each of the past three years and come home without a title. This weekend will be their last shot to make it happen.
It also will mark the end of a longtime on-field partnership.
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During her Kamiakin career, Kamphuis has recorded 556 strikeouts and 36 shutouts while throwing to Miracle, who has caught her since they were seventh-graders at Desert Hills Middle School.
Two years in a row, they led the Braves to undefeated league records. Kamphuis and Miracle are trying to not think about this year’s 24-0 overall mark entering the Class 3A state tournament in Lacey.
“I kind of take it one game at a time,” Miracle said before regionals. “I really don’t want to look at the big picture until it’s all over because I want to be able to focus on the game that’s at hand and not get distracted.”
After state, Kamphuis and Miracle will team up one more time, at Sunday’s Senior All-Star Challenge in Ellensburg. When that’s over, Miracle, who is bound for Washington State University, will say goodbye to competitive softball, and Kamphuis will begin to prepare for the next phase of her career -- college ball at Weber State in Ogden, Utah.
“I’m not done playing, so that’s kind of what’s keeping me calm, but to think my high school career is almost over and that I’m not gonna have Hutch as my coach or Jessica as my catcher, yeah, I don’t really want to think about that,” Kamphuis said.
Kamphuis and Miracle met at a church youth group after Miracle moved to the Tri-Cities from Ohio when she was about 11. Miracle wasn’t very talkative, but they found a bond through their middle school softball team. Kamphuis started pitching when she was 8, after watching her dad, Barry, play on traveling men’s fastpitch teams, and Miracle had been in a competitive league in Ohio.
When they got to Kamiakin, they were a ready-made battery. Kamphuis split time with Katie Martell in the circle, and Miracle was the full-time catcher. As starting freshmen who were somewhat intimidated by the older girls, they became closer -- eventually, practically inseparable.
Off the field, they like to walk their dogs, tackle dancing games on the Nintendo Wii or watch Disney movies. Miracle is partial to The Lion King, while Kamphuis knows all the words to the songs from The Little Mermaid.
“They know each other so well,” Hutchison said. “Like if I’m running infield with them, they just look at each other and they finish each other’s sentences. They look at each other, and they’ll just start laughing. Just the connection they have, they know each other’s thoughts. When you’re pitching and catching, you’ve got to nonverbally get to know each other, and they’ve done that very well. It’s been a lot of fun working with those two. It’s gonna be definitely hard and a big change, them not being around next year.”
Kamphuis and Miracle, who also played travel ball together on the Tri-City Heat and Washington Explosion, will leave Kamiakin as different people than when they entered, largely because of each other.
“I helped Jessica become louder,” Kamphuis said. “She hasn’t really quieted me down, but I have more respect for people who are shy. I understand them more if they don’t want to talk. I get it -- it’s not because they hate me, it’s because they’re shy. But even when Jessica didn’t really talk, she still talked to me, but maybe that’s just because I forced her.”
Kamphuis might receive a lot of attention for her game, but Miracle is the glue that holds her together on the field.
“I can always tell if she’s getting frustrated or if she just needs a short little break,” Miracle said. “I’ll always call time and go out there and just laugh it off. I definitely know a lot of her limits, and she knows a lot of mine.”
There is no concrete plan yet for who will replace Miracle and Kamphuis when they graduate. Sam Booth or Melanie Oord might take over at catcher. Kate Austin has gotten some work in the circle. But one thing’s for certain -- they will have a tough duo to follow.
“Out of any pitcher and catcher ever, we have the best relationship, the best connection, the best everything,” Kamphuis said, “and I’ve just been really lucky with that.”
w Katie Dorsey: 582-1526; firstname.lastname@example.org