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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shadle Park, Clarkston softball eye return to state stage after Greater Spokane League 2A teams left out last season

By Madison McCord The Spokesman-Review

Shadle Park softball is no stranger to postseason success, which made the abrupt end to last season that much more difficult to swallow for Courtney Brown.

Unlike most years, no Greater Spokane League 2A team earned an automatic state berth in 2023. Instead, the top two district finishers had to play crossovers with the CWAC for a pair of loser-out games.

“It really hurt missing out last year,” Brown said of Shadle’s 10-3 elimination loss to East Valley (Yakima) last May. “But immediately we turned that into a fuel for this season to push further and want to be back at state more than we have before.”

Now a senior, Brown is one of several leaders for the Highlanders, who have started the GSL 2A season unbeaten following an 8-3 victory over second-place Clarkston on Tuesday.

The strong starts to the season for Shadle (8-3 overall, 7-0 league) and the Bantams (10-2, 6-1) put them in the driver’s seat for the top two seeds in the district tournament. This year, both teams that reach the district title game will head to the State 2A tournament.

“Any time we can have two teams from Spokane at state, it’s really important,” Shadle Park coach Scott Kine said after Tuesday’s victory. “It’s key that the teams from the West Side and the teams in the CWAC can see us at the highest level, because we have shown that we can compete.”

Although it is no guarantee that Shadle and Clarkston will be the GSL’s two representatives, Tuesday’s game at Shadle Park showed why both have had so much success in the first half of the season.

Clarkston jumped on the board quickly with a run in the first inning off Shadle Park standout pitcher and reigning league MVP Crimson Rice to take a 1-0 lead. Rice then answered back in the home half of the first with a towering three-run home run.

Brown added a grand slam for the Highlanders in the second to go up 7-1, but first-year Clarkston coach Kristin Wilson praised her team’s fight to stay in the hunt after going down early.

“Our girls came out ready to play in a tough environment, and if you take a couple of their big swings away it might be a different result,” Wilson said. “We can take away that our girls can play with them and I think play with anyone in the state.”

Although Wilson wasn’t with the program last season, she said there was a clear message of making amends for missing out on state among the team that returned eight starters, including all-league first-team infielder Brooke Blaydes, outfielder Ryan Combs and infielder/pitcher Murray Broemeling.

“These girls have been playing together for a long time, and because of that I really wanted us to go back and focus on fundamentals, because I knew the chemistry was there,” Wilson said. “They’ve done a great job of picking up on the little things again and that has translated into winning softball games.”

Brown echoed the importance of continuity for the Highlanders, who lost some key players to graduation last year.

“We started a bit rocky with losses to teams like Freeman and Northwest Christian early on,” Brown said. “But between our key seniors and the underclassmen that have stepped up, we are now finding our groove at the right time.”

The two teams are guaranteed at least two more showdowns in the coming weeks with a doubleheader to wrap up the regular season set for May 3 at Clarkston. The pair could also see each other in the District 8 title game on May 18.

The State 2A tournament is scheduled for May 24-25 in Selah.

“We are good at softball over on this side of the state, and we want to show that,” Brown said. “We missed out on it this year, but we are ready to come and play now.”