• Here’s the story …
The University High Titan girls’ softball team had a pretty full Saturday.
Tops on the to-do list: Win a couple games in the State 4A Regional, earn a berth in the state tournament, attend the prom.
On a rainy day at U-Hi, the Titans accomplished the first two, allowing the five seniors to skip the final seeding game and head to the last dance.
“(Third of fourth seed) doesn’t matter, my seniors are now going to the prom,” said U-Hi coach Jon Schuh after his Titans took care of what did matter, earning one of four state berths by defeating Wenatchee 7-1 behind the four-hit pitching of Devynne Johnson.
The other three berths were taken by Columbia Basin Big Nine schools, with Walla Walla (25-1) earning the No. 1 seed after defeating Southridge (19-8) 12-6 in an early game and avenging its only loss of the season with a 7-2 win over Richland (19-7) for the regional title.
Richland clinched its state berth with an early 6-2 win over Wenatchee. Kamiakin (18-10) survived the elimination bracket, defeating Mead, 8-0, and Southridge, 5-4, before stopping University (18-7), 4-3, in the late seeding game.
The loss to Kamiakin eliminated Greater Spokane League champion Mead (18-6) and Gonzaga Prep saw its season end to U-Hi, 13-2, in a game shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.
It was in that first game, when the Titans scored four times in the bottom of the first and nine more in the second, the seeds of the state berth were sown.
U-Hi collected 14 hits, all in the first two innings, with Jordan Schmerer picking up three and Alene Bethel and Breann Warren smashing two-run home runs.
“For us, our key has pretty much been offense,” said Schuh, whose Titans will be making their 11th appearance in the State 4A Tournament, but the first since 2005. “If we can score some runs, that typically gives us a little bit of, I don’t know, stress relief in the circle.”
With the pressure off, Johnson breezed through the Prep (12-12) lineup, giving up a line drive home run to Sammy Cassano in the second and Sierra Little’s ground single to left to open the fifth.
That’s when Schuh pulled her in favor of Brittany Hecker, who finished the game by striking out the side.
“When the rain came, I think (Johnson) kind of mentally said ‘oh my gosh, it’s raining, the ball’s wet,’ ” Schuh said. “This time, when that happened, she didn’t buckle.”
The match up against Wenatchee (13-12) was played in a weather that ranged from sun to a fine mist to a hard rain, but none of it fazed Johnson.
“I know it was important to win this game because it would determine whether we go to state or not,” said Johnson, who finished with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
The junior righthander didn’t yield a hit until Kirsten Flones’ opposite field solo home run to left in the fifth. By then the Titans had built a 4-0 lead, scoring twice in the first and the third, both rallies ignited by leadoff hitter Brittany Connor and aided by Panther miscues.
After Wenatchee got on the board, the Titans put the game away in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three times including another two-run bomb to center by Warren.
That was more than enough for Johnson.
“I rose to the occasion,” she said, smiling. “I had some trouble early in the year but right now, I don’t think there is anything that can stop me.”
“There were a couple times we definitely could have broke in this game, and we didn’t do that,” Schuh said. “Devynne threw a great game. She threw two great games today.”
In an earlier game, Kamiakin exploded for six second-inning runs to end Mead’s season. The Braves’ Stephanie Hunter had three hits including a triple.
• That’s it for tonight. Until later …