Three teams from Washington’s east side fared especially well at the Class 4A state softball tournament in 2012. Walla Walla and Richland finished second and third, while Central Valley finished fifth.
With only two teams out of District 5/8 getting state berths this season, one of those marquee-level softball team will stay at home this year.
“Unfortunately, the CBBN schools kept their own berth, and usually (Tri-Cities schools) would take that away,” Richland coach Casey Emery said. “The fact that all three placed at state last year and one of us won’t go is really unfortunate.”
On the plus side, Emery said whichever two teams make it out of today’s District 5/8 regional tournament at Columbia Playfields in Richland should do very well at state.
Never miss a local story.
“If we make it there, we have a chance to win it,” he said.
And why not? The Bombers, who will face Mead at noon in a loser-out matchup, lost seven starters to graduation this season, but their young lineup played its way into the Mid-Columbia Conference district championship game against Walla Walla. Despite what Emery considered a lopsided game in terms of the errors — both mental and physical — the Bombers committed in the 10-8 title game loss to the Blue Devils, he’s been impressed with his team’s quality of play.
“At the beginning of the year, I would have said I’m happy to (reach regionals), but now we’re playing at an extremely high level,” Emery said. “We played our worst game of the year against a very good team, and they took advantage of it. ... When the first pitch goes out against Mead, we’ll see.”
Richland relies heavily on its depth, which manifests itself in three quality pitchers — Kayla Andrews, Paige Goulet and Abby Perryman. But injuries have continued to take their toll, as Perryman will likely be shelved for the rest of the year with a torn ligament in her throwing hand.
Andrews’ velocity dropped considerably against Walla Walla, from the low-to-mid-60s to the mid-50s, but Emery said her competitive nature makes her a must-start should the Bombers reach the state play-in game.
“Kayla was not herself against Walla Walla,” Emery said. “It was just a bad day for her.”
At 2 p.m., the winner of the Mead-Richland matchup will face the loser of the noon game between Central Valley and Walla Walla for the No. 2 berth to state.
The Blue Devils, who have finished no worse than third — including a state title in 2011 and a runner-up finish last season — in each of the last four seasons, are looking forward to keeping their impressive trophy run going.
First-year coach Kate Keyes, a former Wa-Hi standout, has done a fine job of keeping the machine running smoothly with catcher Kendsey Hill, outfielder Mattie Smyth and pitcher Elli Rassbach leading the way.
“I’ve had the privelege of working with a very talented group of young ladies, and I feel it is my responsibility to push them to their highest potential,” Keyes said. “I have high expectations for their performance through the postseason.”
3A District 5/8 tournament: Kamiakin will face University at noon for the regional championship. The loser will face the winner between Shadle Park and North Central at 2 p.m. for the second berth to the 3A state tourney. The Braves are hoping to extend a string of five consecutive state appearances.
2A CWAC crossover: Deer Park will visit Othello for the No. 4 seed to state. The Huskies are eager to get back, having missed the 2A state tournament just twice since 1995 — in 2009 and last season.
1A SCAC DISTRICTS: Hanford High School will play host to the SCAC district tournament, and defending state champion Connell looks to defend its title. River View and Columbia-Burbank will do their best to take the Eagles down. But it has been lights-out so far against Connell pitcher Ashley Thompson.