The Connell Eagles have come to the Class 1A state softball tournament ready to play -- and to defend their crown.
After opening with a 21-8, five-inning thrashing of Meridian on Friday at Columbia Playfield, the Eagles then got seven RBIs and a one-hitter from Ashley Thompson to knock off Okanogan 13-3.
Connell advances to a semifinal matchup at 9 a.m. today against Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls).
The Eagles are the only Mid-Columbia team left in the 1A bracket.
River View’s season ended with an 0-2 showing in Richland. The Panthers dropped into the consolation rounds with a 9-0 loss to Lakeside, then bowed out of the tournament after falling 8-1 to Cedar Park Christian.
Connell held a 12-run lead after two innings against Meridian, but it took longer to get things rolling in its second game of the day.
After freshman McKenna Mathis pitched a complete game to steer Connell into the quarterfinal matchup against Okanogan, Thompson took over in the circle, but the University of Washington commit struggled to get the calls she wanted early on.
“She had to adjust for the low strike zone,” Connell coach Andy Sawyer said. “It was very tight, and she had to get used to the new mound, but she did real well with adjusting for us.”
Though a cluster of wild pitches and passed balls in the fifth inning contributed to two runs for Okanogan, Thompson held on to a no-hitter until Kelsey Chiles doubled with one out in the seventh.
“There were times I was a little off,” said Thompson, who still finished with 12 strikeouts. “I had the adrenaline going.”It didn’t seem to be an issue for her at the plate.
After Connell freshman Savannah Egbert drew a walk to load the bases with one out in the fourth, Okanogan made a wholesale battery change, sending Kolby Marchand into the circle and Tyler Schreckengost behind the plate.
With a 3-2 count, Thompson calmly stepped to the plate and sent Marchand’s pitch deep into the Columbia Playfield parking lot for an 8-0 Connell lead.
“I was just thinking, ‘Anything close,’ ” Thompson said. “I’m not a big fan of walking, so I just wanted to hit anything.”
Thompson got to Marchand again in the seventh, sending a two-run shot over the center-field fence.
“That Thompson girl is a big part of their team,” Okanogan coach Darin Radke said. “Take away her home runs and her pitching, and it’s a whole new team. But it was a good approach -- we made her throw strikes, got walks, got on base. It was a close game for five innings, and we really competed against the defending state champions.”
Thompson wasn’t the only Eagle producing offense.
Egbert went 3-for-3 against Okanogan, adding to her stellar effort in the opener, when she homered and had two triples.
“I was mentally preparing myself for a good game because obviously Ashley was out, so everyone had to step up, and I filled my spot and did what I needed to do,” said Egbert, who had four RBIs.
Michelle Schultz went 4-for-5 with a homer in the opener, and Mathis and the Sawyer sisters, Shanika and Hope, each drove in three runs against Meridian.
“I always tell the girls not to expect to score 20 runs, but on the other hand, I expect us to score 20 runs,” Andy Sawyer said. “I never think a big enough lead is a good enough lead. We’re always trying to compete with ourselves.”
Meridian 032 21 -- 8 7 7
Connell 391 8x -- 21 17 3
Juliana Magliano, Amber Murphy (2) and Chance Appel; McKenna Mathis and Shanika Sawyer. Highlights--Angela Roderick (M) 2B; Amber Adams (M) 2H, 2B; Mathis (C) 3x3, 2B, 3 RBIs; MarciAnne Hawkins (C) 2x4, 2 RBIs; Whitney Jones (C) 2x3, 2B; Michelle Schultz (C) 4x5, HR, 5 RBIs; Savannah Egbert (C) 3x3, HR, 2 3Bs, 4 RBIs; Shanika Sawyer (C) 2x3, 3 RBIs; Hope Sawyer (C) 3x5, 3 RBIs.
Connell 013 402 3 -- 13 10 1
Okanogan 000 120 0 -- 3 1 1
Ashley Thompson and Shanika Sawyer; Brooklyn Bauer, Kolby Marchand (4) and Darlene Carrillo, Tyler Schreckengost (4). Highlights--Thompson (C) 7IP-12K-1H, 3x4, 7 RBIs, 2-run HR, GS; Hope Sawyer (C) 2x3; Egbert (C) 3x3, 3R; Kelsey Chiles (O) 2B.
River View 000 000 0 -- 0
Lakeside 211 311 x -- 9
Haley Hess and Shelby Salter; Vanessa Ahrendt and Savannah Rolston. Highlights--Tiffany (L) 3H; Naccarato (L) 2H; Ahrendt (L) 2H.
River View 010 000 0 -- 1 3 4
Cedar Park Chr. 212 300 x -- 8 10 1
Haley Hess and Shelby Salter; McCayla Hoffman and Meggan Vanberg. Highlights—Erica Girgus (CP) 3B; Hoffman (CP) 2B, 3B; Emily Potts (CP) 2B.