RICHLAND – Two catchphrases have inspired North Central’s softball team during its push toward the postseason.
The Indians like to say, “How you finish is more important than how you start,” and “Let’s keep winning for our seniors.”
NC made the most of both mottos Saturday as underclassmen ignited two comeback wins to send the Indians (12-11) to the State 3A tournament for the first time since 2009.
The Indians clinched the state berth with a nine-inning, 7-3 victory over Shadle Park (19-4), which had defeated NC three times this season.
NC tied the game at 3 in the seventh, as freshman Paula Pintler beat out an infield single that scored runners from second and third with heads-up running.
Junior Casey Kiourkas had the big hit in the ninth, a bases-loaded double that scooted under the glove of Shadle’s right fielder. She scored the final run on an RBI single by Abby Nelson, one of four seniors remaining from NC’s 2013 Greater Spokane League title team.
“I just knew I had to get something past the infield because the infield was playing in so close,” Kiourkas said. “I just had to get a little dinker out there to try to get one score in. My mind was just going crazy.”
And sophomore pitcher Brooke Olson was nails all day, winning both games and hitting a key solo homer in the fourth against Shadle to wake up the offense.
“Brooke Olson pitched a heck of a game and came up with a home run,” NC coach Rob Kuehn said. “She has carried this team the entire year and she did it again today. She did it in two games, hitting and pitching. She’s a weapon, a massive, valuable weapon.”
“It was (1-0 for Shadle) and I hit that home run and I think that sparked the plug,” Olson said. “I know that my team, no matter what, has my back as a pitcher.”
The Indians also needed a rally to take their opener, a 6-2 win over Southridge (9-12), which led 2-0 after 5 1/2 innings. Junior catcher Kaylee Levien keyed the rally with a two-run double. Olson struck out six, allowed no earned runs and had two hits.
“We haven’t beaten Shadle all year, but after playing that first game I knew we could because we were all on fire,” Kiourkas said.
“We got through that first game with Southridge when they were down 2-0 quickly on some silly mistakes,” Kuehn said. “And, again, they kept going. That’s all we ever do. That’s what we tell them. Just scrap.”
Shadle scored twice in the bottom of the fourth for a 3-1 edge over NC, but an infield error opened the gates for NC in the seventh.
“We make that play, we’re done,” Shadle coach Guy Perham said. “We’re out there cheering and getting our picture taken. That’s the game. … Anytime you have errors and you open the door of opportunity, it’s amazing what can happen.”
Other than NC, GSL teams were 0-5 on the day.
Three-time defending state champion Kamiakin (16-6) ended Shadle’s 13-game winning streak with a 3-0 win in the regional title game. Shadle loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but came up empty, and left runners on second and third in the seventh.
“We’ve had fun,” Perham said. “We’ve had a good run. I feel sorry for my seniors, but we’ll grow.”
Walla Walla (18-5) defeated University 6-4 in the 4A title game. The Titans led 3-1 in the second, sparked by Hailey Howard’s two-run single.
Richland (21-3) earned the other state berth with a 12-1 win over U-Hi (18-6) as freshman Brandi Andrews came within one out of a no-hitter before Alex Douglas’ opposite-field single to left. Senior Abby Perriman drove in four runs with a double, homer and sacrifice fly.
Richland began the day with a 6-3 win that eliminated Central Valley (12-11). April Utecht, the state’s all-time leading home run hitter, hit a three-run blast in the fifth for a 4-3 lead.
Carissa Burgess pitched a one-hitter, striking out seven, and Karly Malcolm hit two solo homers as Ellensburg (18-5) posted a 6-0 win at Cheney (19-3) to advance to state, which begins Friday at Selah.
Selah (18-5) also advanced with a 13-3 win over visiting Pullman (9-11).
District 7 1A
Maddie Lesser’s safety squeeze ignited a seven-hit, seven-run fourth as host Lakeside (20-2) qualified for state with a 12-1, six-inning win over Deer Park at Nine Mile Falls.
McKensie Brittos pitched a four-hitter for the Eagles, who opened state Friday at Richland.
The Stags (18-7) bounced back and earned a trip to state with a 4-3 win over Colville (15-7). Olivia Erickson singled and scored the winning run in the seventh on Carlie Durgeloh’s single.
DeSales (19-4) defeated Dayton 9-1 in the championship game at Merkel Complex.
The Irish and Bulldogs (13-11) both advance to state, which begins Friday at Yakima.
Also heading to state are Northwest Christian (19-6), Colfax (21-4) and Davenport (16-11).
NWC defeated Colfax 8-5 in the game for third and fourth seeds. Mackenzi Gray had three doubles and three RBIs for the Crusaders. Treasure Farmer finished 2 for 2 with three RBIs.
Davenport clinched its bid with an 11-6 win over Springdale (16-10). Davenport’s Grace Lilje hit a two-run homer in the first and a three-run shot in the fifth. Sydney Zeiler added a three-run homer in the fourth.
Rachel Meyer homered and drove in three runs as Colton defeated Liberty Christian 12-2 in six innings in the title game at Medical Lake.
The six-time defending state-champion Wildcats (19-3) will open state Friday at Yakima. Liberty Christian (18-4) also advances.
Curlew (19-6) qualified for state with a 6-5 win that eliminated Cusick (13-7). Kayleona Fanning had the big hit, a two-out, two-run double in the fourth.
Almira/Coulee-Hartline (15-5) advanced to state with an 11-1 win that ousted Pomeroy (12-10). Dani Hayes pitched a five-hitter and had five RBIs with a single, double and homer.
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