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

State softball preview: Facing adversity from the start, Mead has fought back to earn first state berth in two decades

The last time Mead appeared in the state fastpitch softball tournament, current coach Tiffany Casedy was a high school freshman.

Nearly two decades later, the Panthers are finally back in the state bracket for the first time since 2005, earning the No. 15 seed in the State 3A tournament Thursday through Saturday at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.

“I asked our athletic director right after we clinched a spot how long it had been since we made state,” Casedy said. “The girls all thought it was pretty funny since none of them were even born the last time we got here.”

The long road back to championship weekend was far from smooth, though, for Mead (16-8), which will face 18th-seeded Heritage in a loser-out game Thursday at 3 p.m.

Already fielding one of the younger teams in the Greater Spokane League to start the season, Casedy’s squad was dealt a massive blow before the first pitch was thrown with the loss of senior catcher Campbell Brose for the season.

Brose, an All-GSL first-team selection at catcher the past two seasons, was diagnosed with a torn left labrum before the regular season – meaning she would have to spend her senior season off the diamond.

“It was far from easy to know that my last season was lost,” Brose said. “I’ve had several teams of doctors and now the diagnosis has changed to an issue with my pec minor, which may require a different surgery and that could put my college career in jeopardy as well.”

On the season’s first weekend, sophomore pitcher Mia Martin felt a pop in her throwing arm, sidelining her as well.

“I mean, we had just started the year and already we are down our starting catcher and one of our pitchers,” Casedy said.

“But we immediately said as a team that people are going to have to step up, because we knew the talent we had – we just had to put the puzzle pieces together.”

A key cog in figuring out that puzzle has been the play of senior infielder Charlie Stern and junior catcher Bella Brischle – who took over behind the plate for Brose.

Brischle credits Brose’s teaching and support for making the transition seamless.

“I was the backup my first two seasons, and just having (Brose) as the competition pushed me to want the job,” Brischle said. “That fire made it so that when she went down, I was ready to step in because of how much she taught me and how hard she pushed me.”

Stern said the adversity the Panthers have faced this season has only made this postseason run more special. Mead earned the fifth seed into the District 8 tournament between the GSL and Mid-Columbia Conference.

After dropping the opener to top-seeded University, Mead battled through the elimination bracket with three consecutive wins over MCC teams to earn the district’s final state berth.

“It’s taken a ton to get to this point looking back, especially when we consider how young we are and what we’ve gone through,” Stern said. “But when the postseason started, something switched in this group and we have been a different team ever since.”

If the Panthers can get past Heritage on Thursday, they’ll earn a shot at second-seeded Ballard in the round of 16. There they would join fellow GSL foes University and Mt. Spokane – the tournament’s No. 1 and No. 4 seeds, respectively.

The top-seeded Titans (22-1) open against either Cascade (Everett) or Gig Harbor at 11 a.m. Friday. The fourth-seeded Wildcats (20-3) – fresh off a victory over U-Hi in the district title game – face the winner of the Central Kitsap/Auburn Mountainview contest, also at 11 a.m. Friday. The pair are also on the same side of the bracket, meaning a semifinal showdown could be in the cards.

“It’s huge for our league and city to get three teams in the bracket,” Casedy said. “The other two teams are powerhouses, for sure.

“But we’ve said since the start of the postseason that everyone is 0-0 now. So now we are just going to go out and play our best softball and see what happens.”

Clarkston earns seventh seed in 2A tournament: On the heels of three straight victories over GSL rival Shadle Park, Clarkston enters this weekend’s State 2A tournament in Selah as the No. 7 seed.

The Bantams (21-2) will open the 16-team tournament at Carlon Park on Friday against 10th-seeded Franklin Pierce at 9 a.m. Shadle (15-7), the No. 13 seed, faces fourth-seeded Port Angeles in its opener at 11 a.m.

The Highlanders claimed the first of four meetings against Clarkston at home in mid-April, but the Bantams answered back with two victories in the regular-season finale to claim the league title and followed that up with a 10-8 win in the district title game last weekend.

Riverside earns bye in 1A first round: After winning the District 7 1A title, Riverside will have to play the waiting game to learn their first opponent at the State 1A tournament this weekend at Columbia Playfields in Richland.

The Rams (17-5) are the tournament’s No. 3 seed and will play either 11th-seeded Cashmere or sixth-seeded Seton hall in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Fellow NEA foe Lakeside also earned a tournament berth, but as the No. 12 seed the Eagles (12-10) must play a loser-out game against fifth-seeded Elma at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Liberty leads contingent of five B schools: Despite claiming the District 7 2B title, Liberty narrowly missed out on a first-round bye in the State 2B tournament, instead earning the No. 5 seed.

The Lancers (22-1) will take on 12th-seeded Lake Roosevelt in a loser-out game Friday at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima. Also playing in loser-out games Friday are No. 9-seeded Northwest Christian (18-5), against eighth-seeded Pe Ell/Willapa Valley, and 11th-seeded Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (15-9) against No. 6 Warden. All three games are at 10 a.m.

In the State 1B tournament, also at Gateway Sports Complex, second-seeded Inchelium (22-2) opens against No. 7 Muckleshoot Tribal, and fourth-seeded Colton (17-8) faces No. 5 Mossyrock. Both games are scheduled for noon on Friday.