The Richland High School softball team’s chances of a state title looked pretty strong after Saturday’s semifinal win over nationally ranked Woodinville.
But the 9-7 victory was not a sign of things to come.
Instead, the Bombers’ offense, which had been so phenomenal all season, struggled to produce in the Class 4A championship game against Tahoma pitcher Carley Nance.
The junior left-hander gave up four hits as the Bears won their first state fastpitch title with a 9-1 romp over the Bombers (24-4) at Spokane’s Merkel Sports Complex.
“She dominated the game,” Richland coach Casey Emery said via telephone. “And not only pitching, but she made several spectacular plays on defense. Comebackers, line drives at her, she did it all.”
In their only other title game appearance, the Bombers lost to Central Kitsap in 1993, at a time when fastpitch had yet to really catch on around the state. They went to state 14 more times after that, finishing no higher than third.
“Personally, we feel this is the best we’ve ever done,” Emery said.
The Bombers knocked off Battle Ground 5-4 and Yelm 13-10 in Friday’s games, setting up the semifinal against 2012 champion Woodinville.
Richland knocked Woodinville out of the 2014 tournament, but this year’s Falcons entered as No. 14 in the MaxPreps XCellent 25 National Softball Rankings.
After Woodinville took a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning, Richland scored four in the bottom half, the highlight being freshman Bailie Singleton’s three-run triple. In the next inning, Bombers senior April Utecht hit her 57th career home run, a bomb measured at 290 feet. Stephanie Merwin had an inside-the-park homer in the sixth.
Though Woodinville scored two more in the seventh, Richland was able to shut down the rally, and freshman Brandi Andrews picked up the complete-game win.
The final was a more cut-and-dried affair. Tahoma (27-3) got on the board with two runs in the second and put the exclamation point on its victory with a five-run sixth inning.
Richland’s lone run came in the bottom of the fifth.
“If you lose, you’re just not happy,” Emery said. “It’ll take some time to let it build and understand we had a great season.”
Walla Walla, the 4A runner-up in 2012 and 2014, went 1-2 at this year’s tournament. The Blue Devils (19-7) exited with an 8-2 loss to Olympia in a game that was postponed from Friday night because of a lightning storm.
Lauryn Rhinehart and Skylar Hein; Brandi Andrews and Paige Liikala. Highlights: Rhinehart (W) 6IP-7K, 2x3, 3B, R, RBI; Hein (W) 2B, 2 RBIs; Kathryn Hatlen (W) 2B, 2 RBIs; Stephanie Merwin (R) HR, 3 RBIs; April Utecht (R) 2x3, HR, 2 RBIs; Abby Perryman (R) 3B; Bailie Singleton (R) 3B, 2R, 3 RBIs.
Carley Nance and Kinzi Sanders; Andrews, Bailie Singleton (6), Perryman (6) and Liikala. Highlights: Mia Corbin (T) 2x5, 2 RBIs; Delaney Nelson (T) 3x5, 2R, 2 RBIs; Nance (T) 2 RBIs; Sanders (T) 2x4, 2 RBIs; Kaylee Hazelwood (T) 2x4, 2R.