After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons, the Columbia Basin College softball team is headed back to the NWAACC Tournament.
The Hawks, who finished 16-12 in conference play, edged Treasure Valley by one game to the earn the third seed from the East Region. The Chukars finished fourth.
“We knew going into Walla Walla we had to win at least one game to give us a good chance,” said CBC coach Adrian Ochoa, whose team beat the Warriors 12-1 and 3-1 last Saturday. “We wanted the sweep to keep it in our hands and not have to rely on anyone else. It was a good day.”
The Hawks (25-19 overall) open tournament play at 9:30 a.m. Friday against Lower Columbia at Delta Park in Portland.
Lower Columbia (23-16), the 2012 runner-up, is the No. 4 seed from the South Region.
“We haven’t played them this year,” Ochoa said of the Red Devils. “They are a pretty consistent program, and they have won numerous titles (10). I like our draw. I was hoping for a higher seed (they are No. 10), but you have to beat everyone to win it all.”
This season, the Hawks forged a huge turnaround from last year, when they went 6-22 in conference play and 12-31 overall.
“Last year was pretty tough,” Ochoa said. “To go through a season like last year, the sophomores’ goal was to come back and make it to the tournament. They didn’t want to go through that again.”
To help turn things around, Ochoa brought in a good group of freshman, including Richland grad Bailey Walthers, who leads the team in hitting at .452, with 47 hits, six doubles and 19 RBIs.
“Bailey is definitely a spark plug for us on offense,” Ochoa said. “She hits the ball well and gets on base. She was second-team all-region. That was pretty cool for her.”
Sophomore Brenda Rodriguez (Othello), who was a second-team all-region utility player, will get the start for the Hawks on Friday.
“She stepped up pretty big the last few weeks,” Ochoa said. “She has had to throw a lot of innings. She’s a competitor. She likely will see a majority of the innings this weekend.”
Also bringing a spark to the team is sophomore Miranda Martinez, who went from first base to catcher as the Hawks lost their starter behind the plate a third of the way through the season.
“Miranda has done really well this year,” Ochoa said of the Othello native. “She caught a little in high school, but it wasn’t her primary position — but it is now.
Note: Also earning East Region honors were sophomore outfielder Ashlen Ayers (first team) and sophomore infielder Maddie Chambers (second team).