RICHLAND -- A year ago, the Connell Eagles hoisted the Class 1A state softball championship trophy with heavy hearts.
Andrew Sawyer, the father of coach Andy Sawyer and grandfather of players Shanika and Hope Sawyer, died of cancer three weeks before they won their first fastpitch title.
On Saturday, when the Eagles got to hold the trophy again after beating Colville 4-3 in nine innings at Richland’s Columbia Playfield, everyone was thinking of Grandpa, especially his younger granddaughter.
Sophomore Hope Sawyer had the winning hit, a two-run double that brought in McKenna Mathis and Ashley Thompson in the bottom of the ninth. She had a hard time fathoming that she had just helped the Eagles (26-1) nab their second title in her two years at the school.
“I knew that my grandpa was with me, and I knew I was gonna get on base,” Sawyer said. “I don’t know what was going through my head, but it was perfect timing and perfect placement. When I saw Ashley cross the plate, my heart jumped, and it hasn’t stopped yet.”
Andy Sawyer smiled when he spoke of his dad’s influence on the team.
“I’m not sure when the angel’s gonna leave the outfield, but we definitely have one,” Andy Sawyer said. “(Hope) looks up to him before every at-bat, and I think this time it really gave her a lot of confidence, and she’s been hitting the ball real well. I was teasing her earlier that she’s the only one on the team that probably couldn’t hit a home run and then she jacks that one.”
Sawyer had three of the Eagles’ six hits off Colville pitcher Jolene Rogers, whose high school career ended with a runner-up medal against the team that eliminated the Indians 7-6 in extra innings in last year’s state semifinals.
“We were so focused on the title, and we wanted Connell since last year,” Rogers said. “It’s hard, but in our hearts, we know we’re champions.”
Colville (23-4) steamrolled Cascade of Leavenworth 21-0 in the semifinals, while Connell downed Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 7-5 to set up the nail-biter of a title game.
After Connell was unable to score with the bases loaded in the eighth, the game moved to international tiebreaker rules, putting the last batter of the previous inning on second base.
Colville runner Jammie Madonna moved to third on a one-out double by Cassie Cote, then scored on a fielder’s choice to first to put the Indians ahead 3-2. McKenna Cabbage grounded out to end the top half of the inning, and the Eagles came up to bat with Mathis on second.
Having been acquainted with Thompson last year, Rogers intentionally walked her for the third time.
“I took the walk with pride and just knew that I could rely on my team to do what they needed to do to get me in,” Thompson said.
The next batter, Hope Sawyer, drove Rogers’ 0-2 pitch just past the shortstop, and Mathis and Thompson headed home to start the Eagles’ title celebration.
“Just knowing that a sophomore could be the one to have the feeling to hit me and McKenna in, I couldn’t believe it,” Thompson said.
The Indians refused to think about what could have been had they not walked Thompson.
“We never second-guess ourselves — ever,” Colville coach Mandy Sumner said.
In the first inning, the Indians jumped ahead with Madonna’s RBI single off Thompson.
An inning later, Connell put two runs on the board on a fielding error.
The Eagles’ lead was fleeting. In the third, Taylor Kellum darted home for the tying run when April Hinds’ shot to first baseman Michelle Schultz ricocheted off her glove. The pitcher’s duel between Thompson and Rogers continued the rest of the game. While Thompson recorded seven strikeouts, Rogers and Colville’s defense were at the ready to collect grounders and popups.
Prevailing in a close championship game, and especially the contributions from every player on the team, might have made this Connell title run more special than last. In the semifinals, Paxton Carlisle hit a grand slam and freshman Savannah Egbert homered to help Connell get past Lakeside.
“The biggest key is the girls asked me, ‘How are we gonna to do it again?’ and I said, ‘Grayson (Corrales), I need you to hit 100 more points. Hope, I need you to hit 100 more points,’ ” Andy Sawyer said. “That’s probably the biggest thing is that girls who don’t even play this game more than three months really stepped up and got this done. Ashley pitched her heart out in both of them, but definitely, this is cool.”
Colville 101 000 001 — 3 6 1
Connell 020 000 002 — 4 6 1
No outs when winning run scored. Jolene Rogers and Jammie Madonna; Ashley Thompson and Shanika Sawyer. Highlights—Taylor Kellum (Col) 2x4; Cassie Cote (Col) 2B; Hope Sawyer (Con) 3x5, 2-run 2B; Michelle Schultz (Con) 2B; Thompson (Con) 9IP-7K.
Connell 004 102 0 — 7 8 5
Lakeside 220 000 1 — 5 9 0
Ashley Thompson and Shanika Sawyer; Vanessa Ahrendt and Savannah Rolston. Highlights—Paxton Carlisle (C) GS; Savannah Egbert (C) HR; Michelle Schultz (C) 2x4; Ahrendt (L) 2B; Rolston (L) 2B.
Class 2B championships: DeSales’ season ended in the consolation semifinals with a 7-6 loss to Napavine at Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
The Irish went 2-0 on Friday, but they couldn’t keep the momentum going Saturday, falling to eventual champion Pe Ell 6-3 in the semifinals.
Pe Ell, the 2011 runner-up, beat Northwest Christian (Colbert) 6-2 in the final.Dayton’s run ended in the consolation third round with a 15-7 loss to Napavine. The Bulldogs opened the day with a 16-14 victory over Pateros.
Warden was eliminated in the consolation second round after a 4-3 loss to Colfax.
Class 1B championships: Touchet ended the season with a fourth-place finish in Yakima, falling to Selkirk 15-4 in the consolation final.
Defending champion Colton defeated Almira-Coulee-Hartline 5-2 in the title game.