Lexie Levin, whose golden left arm was uselessly dangling from her side as she held a second-place trophy in her right hand, winced as if carrying a beehive. The Kesterson twins, without any more runs to generate or runners to gun down with their powerful throws, hugged each other before wiping away tears. And catcher Kayla Deditius ditched her mask and coat of armor before breaking into uncontrollable sobs as she forced herself out of the dugout for the final time this season.
But the words that most appropriately summed up the feelings of the Everett High School softball team late Saturday afternoon were spoken even before the Seagulls took the field for the 3A state title game.
"The girls," coach Casey Chaffee said after a convincing semifinal win sent EHS into its first-ever championship game in fastpitch softball, "are in it to win it."
It would be the state championship, which was the all-or-nothing goal of this Everett team from even before Chaffee took over the team in December. With seniors like Levin and Chloe and Lauren Kesterson leading the way, the Seagulls had their eyes on the prize all offseason and well into Saturday afternoon.
But a rough fifth inning and a 6-1 loss to Kamiakin left Everett oh-so-close and yet so far away from finishing what it started.
"It's tough," Lauren Kesterson said after the Seagulls gave up five runs, all with two outs, in the fifth inning of Saturday's title game. "It's not an easy thing to go through.
"I'm a senior, so it's my last time wearing an Everett High School uniform. But I'm proud. I'm proud to wear it, and I'm proud of this team."
The Seagulls (25-2) certainly had every reason to hold their heads high Saturday, even though they came up short in the end. After dominating the 3A tournament for most of Friday and Saturday, Everett finally came down to earth during a forgettable fifth inning that saw Kamiakin break a scoreless tie and assert control with a 5-0 lead.
The two-out rally, and the presence of red-hot pitcher Lindsey Kamphuis, who allowed just two runs in four games, proved too much for Everett to overcome.
"I'm just surprised we didn't score more runs," Chaffee said after a loss that saw Everett get just two hits through the first five innings and six for the game. "We've been hitting the crud out of the ball all year, and all weekend. We just couldn't find the holes (in Saturday's loss)."
As frustrating as the fifth inning was for Everett High fans to watch, the scoreless third inning may have been just as important. Both teams had three-up, three-down frames, and yet Kamphuis did it on just four pitchers _ as compared to 17 thrown by Levin. The senior left-hander seemed to run out of gas two innings later, when Kamiakin put the Seagulls away.
For much of Saturday's championship game, Everett looked like a different team than the one that breezed through its first three tournament opponents by an aggregate score of 22-8. After hitting .372 with runners in scoring position during wins over Liberty, Enumclaw and University, the Seagulls went 1 for 5 in the title game. After hitting .393 with two outs in previous games, they went 0 for 7 in Saturday's finale.
The fifth inning saw Kamiakin (28-0) bat around the order, with four singles and two hit batters. The two-out rally might have been avoided had a solid throw to the plate from rightfielder Cherise Shaver resulted in a third-out tag, but Deditius barely missed the runner, giving the Braves the game's first run. The next three Kamiakin batters reached base to put four more runs on the board before the two teams each added a run in the sixth.
To get to the final, the Seagulls had to fight off a stubborn University of Spokane team in a morning semifinal.
That game saw a fifth inning that working in Everett's favor, with three University errors helping the Seagulls score four runs on the way to a 5-0 lead. The big blow came when Levin cleared the bases with a double to drive in three runs.
University rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth, eventually stranding a runner at second base after a nice catch by Everett's Keilanna Harper in centerfield.
Chloe Kesterson hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth for an 8-3 lead, but the Seagulls still couldn't put the Titans away. Hailey Wesselman of University hit a one-out, two-run homer in the top of the seventh to pull within 8-5 before a pair of solid defensive plays by EHS second baseman Olivia Juarez finished off the win.
Levin, who didn't have her best game on the mound, went 4 for 4 and had four RBI in the semifinal victory.
After that win, she called the championship game a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" and said she was looking forward to capping off her career with a state title.
But that didn't happen in the end.
"We have five seniors, and we really wanted to come out and do it," she said a few minutes after the loss to Kamiakin, when she was finally able to offer a smile. "But somebody's got to win, and unfortunately it wasn't us."
Lauren Kesterson, who went 8-for-14 at the plate during the four games of the tournament while scoring 11 of the Seagulls' 23 runs, said she'll still be able to hold her head high.
"We had an amazing season; you can't deny that," the black-haired senior said while standing next to her blond twin, Chloe. "We're a great team."
At Regional Athletic Complex
Everett 8, University 5
University 000 003 2--5 9 3
Everett 001 043 x--8 10 1
Hecker and Birch. Levin and Deditius. WP--Levin. LP--Hecker. 2B--Bruno (U) 1, Wesselman (U) 1, Levin 2 (E) 1. HR--Wesselman (U) 1, C.Kesterson (E) 1.
Kamiakin 6, Everett 1
Kamiakin 000 051 0--6 7 0
Everett 000 001 0--1 6 0
Kamphuis and Miracle. Levin and Deditius. WP--Kamphuis (4-0). LP--Levin (3-1). Records--Kamiakin 28-0. Everett 25-2.
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