Can Mountlake Terrace rekindle late-season success?
The Hawks caught fire in the district softball playoffs and seek to carry that over in the 3A state tournament.
Then the Hawks caught fire.
They defeated Marysville Pilchuck and Shorecrest to clinch a spot in the district championship -- as well as a berth in the 3A state tournament -- before falling to league champion Meadowdale 6-5.
"I think the girls have a little bit more confidence now," the Hawks' first-year coach, Shannon Rasmussen, said. "I think they know they're more capable of going out and playing with these teams. Hopefully that will carry over to the state tournament."
Terrace faces Prairie in an opening-round game at 9 a.m. today in Lacey.
Rasmussen said she expects Terrace to rebound from the district title game, where the Hawks lost to Meadowdale by one run for the third time this season.
"I feel like we've been able to learn from our losses," Rasmussen said. "A lot of them we just really needed that one big hit. In districts we had girls step up and get those big hits."
Meadowdale (20-2) was the top team in a very strong Wesco 3A South. The conference went 4-0 on the first day of the district tournament and went on to claim all three state berths.
Having the experience of playing tough teams should help at state, Hawks co-captain Maddy Kristjanson said.
"Meadowdale is probably one of the top teams in the state with (senior) Alyssa Reuble. She's one of the toughest pitchers out there," Kristjanson said. "Shorecrest is a good hitting team. Glacier Peak is up there, too. We definitely think we'll be prepared for state."
Kristjanson has been a big part of the Hawks' success. She has a .532 batting average and a .922 slugging percentage. She leads the team with eight home runs, 34 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
The junior is 6-3 in the circle with a 3.24 earned-run average. Rasmussen said Kristjanson is a strong pitcher, but with the Hawks' other captain -- senior pitcher Rene Bos -- stepping up, Kristjanson can play shortstop, where she hasn't committed an error in two years.
"I think Rene has stepped up a ton in the pitching circle," Rasmussen said. "I know in the past they've relied on Maddy, but our defense is so much stronger having Maddy (in) the field."
Bos is 7-7 with a 2.21 ERA.
A trio of Hannahs have helped spark the Hawks' offense. Senior Hannah Fickle has eight doubles and 15 RBI; junior Hannah Baisch has four homers and 27 RBI; and sophomore Hannah Wilcox is hitting .474 with two home runs.
"Toward the end of the (regular season) we struggled getting everyone going on offense," Kristjanson said. "We were getting hits, just not together. We were leaving girls on base. (In the district tournament) we started getting those hits and making plays on defense."
Fickle and Baisch were on the Terrace team that went to state in 2011 and finished 1-2 at Lacey.
"It's the second year I've gone," Fickle said. "I think it'll help with nerves and keeping calm. ... I'm pumped going back to state my senior year. I think we'll play well together."
Said Baisch: "It was really nerve-wracking to go as a freshman. But it was also a lot of fun. Whatever happens, we made it to state as a team. We'll win or lose as a team."
After a 0-2 start, Kristjanson wasn't sure Terrace would make it to state, especially since it had to compete in a loaded Wesco South 3A.
"At the beginning of the year I didn't think state would be a possibility," Kristjanson said with a laugh. "Going into the season, it was a struggle getting girls to come out for the team. As the season went on, our practices went better, we were getting better team chemistry with each other."
The Hawks are 5-4 after losses this season, and look to improve on that mark when they take on Prairie, But the Falcons won't be the only opponent they're battling this morning. The flu swept through the Terrace lineup recently. leaving just four healthy players to practice Monday.
That number improved to seven on Tuesday and eight Wednesday.
Kristjanson is one of the players who missed the first three practices. While she's wasn't thrilled to be ill, she does see one positive in getting her sickness out of the way.
"I guess it's better to have it earlier in the week than on Friday," she said.
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