Connell senior Ashley Thompson wanted to go out with a bang at the 1A state softball tournament.
The BYU-bound hurler sure made it a big one Saturday in Richland.
Figuring 14 strikeouts might not be enough to remember her by, Thompson hammered a 3-2 pitch from Woodland pitcher Makayla Lefever to deep center field to lead off the third inning, sending it 280 feet to dead center into the overhanging trees at Columbia Playfield.
That gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead, which was more than enough for Thompson, who allowed just two hits in a 4-0 championship victory — Connell’s third in a row — that secured a perfect 27-0 season.
“That’s what we expect every time from (Thompson). She’s one of the best in Washington,” Eagles coach Andy Sawyer said.
Thompson got Karlee Dyson, the Beavers’ No. 7 hitter, to chase a 1-2 pitch with two outs in the seventh. Thinking that was the end, Thompson fell to her knees. But catcher Alex Shuster dropped the third strike and had to toss it to first to end the game. Maybe not the way she pictured it, but a happy ending nonetheless.
“On a change-up, you kind of expect that,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of sad to think about this being my last (high school) game. But I’m really looking forward to starting my college career.”
Now Saywer has to think about life after Thompson, which begins next year.
“If I didn’t say we were going after another state title, the girls will kill me,” he said. “We might have to do it a little differently next year.”But for a tight group of five seniors — Thompson, Grayson Corrales, MarciAnne Hawkins, Alex Shuster and Michelle Schultz — it was one final chance to go out a winner.
“We’ve been anticipating this moment for a very long time. I’m very grateful that everybody came through,” Corrales said. “Ashley and I have been on the same team since freshman year. I’ve watched her improve so much. I know she’s going to be outstanding in college.”
So outstanding was Thompson that Corrales, the Eagles’ centerfielder, scarcely had any work to do, as Woodland hit just two balls out of the infield. The biggest job Corrales had was keeping track of a hungry seagull that landed off to her right during the game.
“I was kind of curious. It had a little red vine, just a little snack,” Corrales said. “Ashley is such a strong pitcher, but you always have to be ready. I caught two balls (against Montesano).”
McKenna Mathis came up big for Connell in the title game, driving in the Eagles’ first run with an infield grounder in the second and then lacing a two-run double down the left field line in the third to cap the scoring.
Mathis was playing with a tightly-taped left wrist, which she sprained yesterday in the team’s first-round win against Riverside.
“The more I played, the more it hurt,” she said, showing off her swollen wrist while the team posed for pictures around the championship trophy.
Mathis, a junior shortstop, will take over the pitching duties for Thompson next year, a tall order for a player who only pitched five games this season. But she’s hoping her club background will help boost her competitive edge.
“I throw in the mid-50s with a good drop ball,” she said. “I’m going to work on it all winter.”
Connell topped Montesano 5-0 in the semifinals earlier in the day. Thompson had 13 strikouts and allowed just one hit, while Savannah Egbert homered to spark the offense.
Connell 101 030 0 — 5 7 1
Montesano 000 000 0 — 0 1 2
Ashley Thompson and Alex Shuster; Didion, Schneider (5) and Swen. Highlights—Prante (M) 2B; Thompson (C) 13 Ks; MarciAnne Hawkins (C) 2x3; Savannah Egbert (C) HR; Hope Sawyer (C) 2B; McKenna Mathis (C) 2B.
Woodland 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Connell 013 000 0 — 4 9 1
Lefever and Tesdale; Thompson and Shuster. Highlights—Thompson (C) 14 Ks, 2x2, HR, RBI, R, SB; Grayson Corrales (C) 2x3, 2 R; Mathis (C) 3 RBI; M.Hawkins (C) 2x3.