The idea hit Tony Batinovich late Saturday morning, after Puyallup blanked Woodinville in a State 4A softball tournament semifinal game.
That’s the moment the Vikings coach thought his young squad just might win it all.
Batinovich pointed around his infield – at the three freshmen who start at first, third and shortstop, and especially at the left-hander who starts at second base.
“We’re such a young team,” he said. “What it took was a lot of things falling into place and one helluva pitcher.”
The pitcher, senior Marissa Miller, baffled Walla Walla through seven innings while the freshman shortstop, Natalie Joyner, ripped a two-run triple that proved the game-winning hit as the Vikings scored a 4-2 win over the Blue Devils to claim their first state softball crown.
Miller was stellar Saturday at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex, shutting out Woodinville 5-0 thanks to some timely fielding by the left-handed second baseman, Jordyn Bartleson, who started a key double play from her knees with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning.
Miller used a fastball and an assortment of breaking pitches to reach the final. But against the Blue Devils she mixed in a change-up.
“It used to be my go-to pitch, but I didn’t need in the first three games,” Miller said. “I’ve never faced Walla Walla, but they had me scouted pretty well. They were hitting my fastball pretty well early and I needed to keep them off-balance.”
Leading 2-1 in the fifth inning, Emily Ensrud led off with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on an infield hit by Bailey Plumb. Joyner then drove the ball into the gap in right-center to clear the bases.
Bartleson and sophomore leadoff hitter Ensrud sparked the Vikings through four games – Ensrud with her speed and Bartleson with the kind of toughness you expect from a two-time state wrestling champion and Division I soccer prospect, even as a lefty second sacker.
“I’ve been playing second since I was little,” she said. “I’ve always liked to play infield and it just comes naturally to me.”
Richland took third place with a five-inning, 11-1 victory over Bethel.
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