Richland High School softball coach Casey Emery says this is the healthiest he can remember his team being at this point of the regular season.
That’s great news for the Bombers entering Friday’s doubleheader at Walla Walla (3 p.m. start). Both Class 4A teams are unbeaten in Mid-Columbia Conference play.
Emery is mindful of the fact that the Bombers (10-1-1, 6-0 MCC) still have several important games after Walla Walla, so a strong showing against the Blue Devils will go a long way toward how they finish.
“The seeding in our league is huge,” Emery said. “If you’re the No. 1 seed, it guarantees you to get to regionals, and with Chiawana in the 4As really coming up and being a potential contender, it means a lot if you can get that No. 1 seed.”
Richland will bring its blistering lineup to Walla Walla to face the Blue Devils (12-1, 6-0).
Brandi Andrews is batting a team-best .618 (21-for-34) with five doubles, a team-high four home runs and 18 RBIs.
Adie Luchi (.607), Emily Garza (.581), California transfer Natalie Giroux (.485, team-high 9 2Bs and 21 RBIs), Stephanie Merwin (.457, team-high 4 triples and 4 HRs, 16 RBIs), Miranda Camacho (.452), Paige Liikala (.452) and Kelsea Hinkley (.409) all have at least 28 at-bats.
“For us to sit here this time of year with what we had to replace — April Utecht, Abby Perryman, Alicia Maul, Emily DuBois, Hailey Watkins and Bailie Singleton, a freshman last year who was unbelievable in the postseason for us (she moved to Idaho) — to say that we were going to put up these types of offensive numbers, it’s incredible,” Emery said. “I am obviously pleasantly surprised.”
In the circle, Andrews, a sophomore, is 10-1 with a 1.07 ERA, giving up nine earned runs (20 runs overall) in 59 innings. She has allowed 43 hits in 12 games, striking out 77 and walking nine.
“She’s been phenomenal, not walking a lot of girls, really trying to work corners and letting the defense play behind her,” Emery said.
Walla Walla is hitting .424 as a team, but the Blue Devils also have a top-notch pitching trio.
Starters Brandi Schoessler and Kamryn Coleman have each thrown about 25 innings. Jax Conklin has been a lockdown closer, allowing two runs in 11 innings.
“Right now, it’s probably our pitching that’s keeping us in it,” coach Arch McHie said. “We’re so young in all of our skill positions that we have a tendency to boot the ball a little bit. Our pitching has to throw an extra out to an inning sometimes, and having three pitchers really makes a big difference. It’s allowed us to keep the inning numbers way down, too. One dominant pitcher throwing a lot of innings can start to add up as you head to (the) postseason. We’re not going to have that problem this year, if we make it to (the) postseason.”
Both teams are looking at Chiawana (7-5, 4-2) as a squad that could shake up the top of the standings. Richland and Walla Walla each have the Riverhawks coming up on their schedules next week.
“We just have to be more consistent,” said Chiawana coach Paul Antonovich, whose team split with Southridge and Kamiakin. “We are still a pretty young team. I have some seniors. I have two freshmen that are my pitchers (Annalisa McKinney and Maile Bishop) and a sophomore that is my catcher (Sam Cissne). We are really young in that aspect. We’re trying to get them all dialed in.
“When it comes to the district tournament, as long as we’ve jelled by then, that’s the important piece.”
BATTLE BREWING IN 3AS: With a 3-3 conference record, Southridge is the 3A leader in the MCC, but the other three teams are closely tailing the Suns.
Kamiakin (2-4) split with Chiawana last week to pull into a tie for the No. 2 3A spot with Kennewick, which swept Pasco.
Hanford is 1-5 in conference play, with its lone win coming against Kamiakin.
Plenty of chances remain for each team to spoil things for their rivals. Here are the 3A matchups for the rest of the regular season.
Friday: Southridge at Kennewick (DH).
April 26: Southridge at Hanford (single game), Kamiakin at Kennewick (single game).
April 29: Kamiakin at Southridge (DH).
May 3: Hanford at Southridge (single game), Kennewick at Kamiakin (single game).
May 6: Hanford at Kennewick (DH).