By David Krueger Herald Writer
LACEY — The Glacier Peak softball team fought until the end.
Making its first-ever appearance in the 3A state softball tournament, the Grizzlies won their first two games on Friday to earn a spot in the semifinals against an undefeated Enumclaw team.
Undaunted, Glacier Peak battled Enumclaw and hung with the Hornets, keeping the game close the whole way before falling 4-3 to the Hornets Saturday morning at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
“We’re really proud of ourselves for the effort we put out this weekend,” said Glacier Peak head coach Caitlin Nies. “We battled every single pitch. A lot of the games we were down sometimes, we were up sometimes. Our girls kept fighting.”
Enumclaw’s Madelyn Carlson led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run to add to the Hornets’ lead, giving them a 3-0 advantage over Glacier Peak.
The Grizzlies got closer in the top of the fifth, with an RBI single by Nina Kim, who scored later in the inning on a wild pitch to make it 3-2.
The Hornets got another RBI from Chloe Young in the bottom of the inning. Enumclaw would need the run after a solo home run by Aurora Ellison, her second of the state tournament, again narrowed the gap to one, 4-3.
Glacier Peak got a runner to third in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t plate the tying run as Enumclaw maintained its undefeated season — the Hornets did suffer their first loss of the season in the 3A championship game, falling to Kamiakin 4-2 for the Braves’ third-consecutive state title.
“We had a lot of runners on base throughout the game,” Nies said, “but Enumclaw had a tough pitcher. She had a great rise ball that got us a little bit. But we were right there with them and it came down to the last out.”
The semifinal loss set up a loser-out game against Prairie, which Glacier Peak defeated earlier in the state tournament. In a rematch of the two teams’ state opener — which also went into extra innings — Prairie scored two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat Glacier Peak 10-9.
The Falcons, which placed second at last year’s state tournament, had scored 11 or more runs in their three games since a 5-4 loss to Glacier Peak in eight innings Friday afternoon.
“Prairie swings the bats,” Nies said. “We knew that we were going to need to score a lot of runs. It was a great game. It was back and forth. We had a couple chances to score a few more runs here and there that we just couldn’t take advantage of. It was like the 12th round in a prize fight. It was just back-and-forth slugging.”
Glacier Peak had a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning. Prairie continued to chip away at the lead, and tied it late in the contest.
The 7-7 tie remained until the ninth inning, when both teams got a run, maintaining the tie at 8-8.
In the 10th, Glacier Peak again scored in the top of the inning, but Prairie rallied again, with two runs that gave the Falcons the win and ended the Grizzlies’ season at the 3A state tournament.
“I’m just really proud of our girls for the fight that they put up the whole weekend,” Nies said. “There was never a time we gave up on ourselves. I think that sums up this team pretty well. Callie Bircher threw every inning for us and got us out of jams. We’re just really feeling proud of the effort we put out.”
The Glacier Peak coach praised the defense of Kim and Ellison, as well as their offensive contributions. The duo — along with Bircher who pitched every inning in Lacey for the Grizzlies — were big parts of a Glacier Peak’s history-making season that saw the Grizzlies finish 17-10 and win the first district title in the softball program’s history.
Ellison and Kim are both juniors and return to a Glacier Peak team that Nies believes will be eager to make trips to the state tournament a trend.
“The girls had a blast,” Nies said. “I know the younger ones got a taste and are going to want to be back there even more now. It was just a great experience. And this team can always leave the legacy that they were the first.”