Offense powered the Kamiakin High School softball team to a 10-4 Mid-Columbia Conference record and the league’s top Class 3A seed in the regular season, but pitching and defense got it through the regional playoffs.
After losing the MCC-GSL semifinal to Shadle Park on May 12, the Braves entered Wednesday needing two wins to advance to the glue crossover. They topped Southridge 5-2 in the first game, their third win over the Suns (8-15) this season, and held a 2-0 lead over Shadle Park going into the bottom of the sixth inning of the final loser-out game.
Three singles in four at-bats scored the Highlanders’ first run of the game and put runners at the corners with one out. But on the next play, junior shortstop Macy Christianson dove to catch a line drive and doubled up the runner at third to get Kamiakin out of the inning with the lead still in tact. She followed that up by gunning down a runner at the plate after a nifty backhanded stop for the second out of the seventh, then retired Allyson Gwiazda on a grounder to vanquish Shadle Park (18-5) for good.
“The last play was pretty emotional. It was just a routine grounder, but it was pretty intense,” Christianson said. “We always do 21 outs and the last ball is always hit to me, and it was pretty intense how the last play was hit to me. And even though it was just a routine grounder, it was pretty emotional thinking that it could be over if I just overthrow it or something.”
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The run-saving, highlight-reel plays didn’t go unnoticed by pitcher junior pitcher Andria Skeels, who pitched four scoreless innings against Southridge and went the distance against Shadle Park, giving up one run on six hits.
“She saved us a lot of times,” Skeels said of Christianson. “There were a bunch of plays by everybody, there was a catch in left field by Rachael (George), every time somebody made a play, it made me more and more excited for the next one.
“After the game I was crying, I was so excited, I was so happy. It was an awesome feeling that everybody did their job, and everybody was trying their hardest, and everybody was putting the team in front of themselves.”
The Braves didn’t make a single error in either of Wednesday’s games, and they could ill afford a mistake with their only runs against Shadle Park star pitcher Jaya Allen coming via successful squeeze bunts by Mya Moore and George.
For a team that routinely scored six or more runs against quality opponents during the regular season, scoring will likely continue to be at a premium for the Braves in the postseason, meaning they’ll have to keep flashing the leather if they want to make a run at state.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of offensive talent here, and we still have it, but yeah, the mantra of this team really is pretty good defense,” Bisson said. “We haven’t made too many mistakes, knock on wood, and (Tuesday) we played error-free, and it showed.
“If we make one error... Christianson made two ESPN-quality plays, and if she doesn’t make either one of those, we’re probably not practicing right now.”
Kamiakin (17-6) will next travel to Seattle to play Juanita (13-11) in a loser-out, winner-to-state crossover. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Southwest Athletic Complex.
The Braves have failed to make the state playoffs the past two seasons after a run of eight straight state appearances that included three consecutive championships.
Chiawana and Richland square off at 4 p.m. Friday at Columbia Basin College in a loser-out game of the 4A regional playoffs. The winner goes on to play the winner of Friday’s Lewis and Clark-Central Valley game, with a shot at playing in the loser-out, winner-to-state game on the line.