Two seasons ago, Tim Bisson was a Kamiakin assistant coach in charge of the Braves’ C-team, which was preparing for practice one morning during spring break.
The Kamiakin varsity club had the day off, but Bisson’s girls didn’t know that.
So when they saw sophomore varsity starters Cylie Richards and Carlie Richards doing ladder drills just a few yards away, one of them asked Bisson, “When does varsity practice? 10:00? 10:30?”
“They don’t practice today, do they?” another asked Bisson.
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“Nope,” he said. “That’s why they’re going to win a state title this year.”
Two months later, Kamiakin was crowned the Class 3A state champions.
Bisson, who took over the varsity last season, knows it was no coincidence, because the Braves followed that up with another title in 2013.
Right in the mix of it all was the core group from the Class of 2014: Six players all hustling, bunting, sliding and slapping their way to the highest achievement a high school team can achieve in the state of Washington.
But identical twin sisters Carlie and Cylie, whether they like to admit it or not, set the tone for back-to-back titles — a rare feat accomplished by just three other Class 3A or 4A teams since 1992.
“They’ve set such a high standard of what to do, when to do it and how to act,” Bisson said. “They don’t even want to talk about themselves. They think, ‘this is not about us. This is about the team.’ ”
For Cylie (pronounced Kylee), a slick-fielding shortstop with good range and dead-eye accuracy on throws to first base, it’s also about appreciating what she has around her.
For instance, all-Mid-Columbia-Conference third baseman Melanie Oord.
“Mel is one of the best third basemen ever. She covers so much ground over there and has cat-like reflexes,” said Cylie, an honorable-mention all-MCC pick as a junior.
But she also cherishes the chance to play alongside her sister, Carlie, a second-team all-MCC outfielder last year.
“Nobody works harder than her. And she always does what’s right,” Cylie said, remembering a recent act of thoughfulness by her sister. “We were walking down the hallway after lunch, and we watched a group of people get up and leave a bunch of garbage behind. Carlie stopped and picked it up.
“We’re seniors, and we’re not going to be at Kamiakin much longer, but she’s still making an impact at school whether people realize it or not.”
Bisson said selflessness like that doesn’t go unnoticed, by coaches or teachers at the school.
“It’s a unique thing to see that kind of passion. They love softball, but more importantly, they love Kamiakin softball,” Bisson said.
Carlie, who made a relatively seamless switch from left to center field this season, has just as much respect for her teammates.
“Having a good outfield around me to help me is good,” Carlie said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to read the ball as quick.”
But she saves some of her most heartfelt admiration for Cylie, who she once watched play three consecutive days with a broken finger.
“Her character — she’s always willing to go a little extra,” Carlie said. “She ran cross country this year, and afterwards she would go out on the track and do sprints. She didn’t want to lose that fast-twitch ability.”
Oord, one of six seniors who will continue her softball career in college, is just as effusive in her praise of the twins.
“Anything to my left side, I know I don’t have to worry about, because I know (Cylie) will have it,” Oord said. “And Carlie has that ridiculous speed in the outfield.
“And when they’re hitting, you can’t pitch it inside, you can’t pitch it outside, and you definitely can’t pitch it down the middle.”
Oord will play next season at Linfield College in McMinneville, Ore., while Hunter Schneitter (Wenatchee Valley College) and Samantha Booth (Columbia Basin College) will both take the NWAACC route.
The twins, along with first baseman Emily Benson, will play next season at Western Washington University.
According to Carlie, it was a package deal. To spend even a season away from her sister and close friend was simply unacceptable.
“Me and Cylie always wanted to go to college together,” Carlie said. “If she would have signed somewhere else, I would have walked on.”
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org