Area fastpitch teams begin their pursuit of state trophies this week with some facing six-hour bus rides, a few essentially playing in their backyard and several somewhere in between.
The 4A and 1A tournaments will be held at Spokane’s Merkel Sports Complex and Franklin Park. No area 4A teams made the field, but Lakeside and Colville figure to be in the 1A title hunt, which begins with games Friday at Franklin before moving to Merkel on Saturday.
“At first I was a little sad because I like the girls to have that state experience – the hotel, camaraderie and team-bonding,” Lakeside coach Chuck Moffatt said. “The more I thought about it we’ve had opportunities to travel to regionals and our Seattle trip. We can get a fan base and we don’t have school on Friday. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Regional runner-up Mt. Spokane and University will be in Lacey for the 3A tournament. West Valley returns to Carlon Park in Selah, where the Eagles lost to Selah in Saturday’s regional title game, for the 2A event.
Coaches have been making calls and scouring newspapers online to brush up on first-round opponents.
“I might make a few calls to a few coaches I know, but a lot of times people are tight-lipped. I know I never want to say anything about a GSL school (to another coach),” U-Hi coach Jon Schuh said. “I’m an Eastside guy and I want the Eastside to do well.”
Mt. Spokane and U-Hi return to state for the second straight year. The Wildcats, who open against Capital, won one game last year before bowing out. The Titans, who face Mountlake Terrace, went 0-2 at the 4A tourney.
“We return 10 or 11 girls that were there last year and that served us well down the stretch this year,” Mt. Spokane coach Carl Adams said. “Being at state was exciting because we hadn’t been there for a couple years. Being there again is great and now we want to take advantage and play well.”
U-Hi won two of three at regionals as pitcher Devynne Johnson blanked Southridge on two hits and limited Eastmont to three hits. Both U-Hi and Mt. Spokane lost to regional champion Kamiakin.
“Last year was our first time at state since 2005 so it was all new to them,” Schuh said. “This year, you’d hope that experience helps. Quite a few of these girls either were brought up to go to state or got to see action and both pitchers (Johnson and Brittany Hecker) threw at state.”
In 1A, Lakeside and Colville have collided five times with the Eagles winning three. Colville won the Northeast A crown, Lakeside rebounded to win district and bi-district titles.
Both programs have collected an assortment of state trophies. Both are looking for a championship and realize the other could be in their path. The teams are in different brackets, meaning if they win three games they’d face off for the title Saturday.
“We can compete with any team in the state if we bring what we know we can bring,” said Colville coach Mandy Sumner, who played on two Indians’ teams that placed third at state in the late 1990s.
Colville opens against Zillah; Lakeside faces Montesano.
“If everything goes the way I’d like we’d meet Lakeside in the championship,” Sumner said. “I think that would be great.”
Lakeside is making its seventh trip to state since Moffatt took over as head coach in 2003. The Eagles were third in 2007 and 2010 and fourth in 2008.
“On paper, this might be the most talented team,” Moffatt said. “Position by position we really don’t have many weaknesses.
Moffatt expects to see great competition.
“Colville should fare really well. They’re in a bracket with Connell and (defending champion) Castle Rock, which I consider favorites as well,” Moffatt said. “Onalaska, Cle Elum, they finished second last year … in all the years I’ve been to state this seems to be the toughest 16-team tournament.”
In 2A, West Valley opens against perennial state qualifier W.F. West. The Eagles’ hopes for an unbeaten season came to end with a 5-4 loss to Selah. West Valley committed a couple of errors in Selah’s four-run fifth inning.
“Everybody knows Selah is probably one of the top teams in the state,” West Valley coach Paul Cooley said. “They were lucky to beat us. Anybody that was there would basically say the same thing.
“Our kids feel pretty good about what we’ve done. We’re going to have to run into a pretty tough team to get beat.”
In 1B openers in Yakima, Almira/Coulee-Hartline faces Highland Christian, Garfield-Palouse meets Wishkah Valley, Selkirk faces Quilcene and Colton meets Sunnyside Christian.
In 2B openers in Yakima, Reardan meets Dayton, Kettle Falls faces LaConner, Northwest Christian meets Warden and Colfax faces Liberty Bell.