LACEY — The day didn’t start out the way the Meadowdale softball team hoped it would.
But by the end, the Mavericks still got to end their season with a record-tying victory.
The Mavericks, who rode the arm of senior pitcher Alyssa Reuble for five state playoff games, called upon their ace one more time. Reuble delivered, and the Meadowdale offense erupted for seven runs, as the Mavericks defeated University 7-2 to clinch third place in the 3A state tournament Saturday afternoon at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
The third-place finish ties the Meadowdale school record for the top finish. The 1997 Mavericks softball team also placed third at state.
“It’s definitely really exciting,” Reuble said. “We really wanted to come home with hardware this year. We haven’t had hardware since 1997, so this was definitely a big thing for us.”
Meadowdale head coach Dennis Hopkins said that the Mavericks are going to miss Reuble, the lone senior on the Meadowdale squad, when she graduates and begins her collegiate career at Seattle University.
“She’s the greatest. Probably one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Hopkins said. “I’m going to miss her big time, but we’re such a young team that she’s left them with a great legacy to follow behind.”
Reuble pitched every inning of every state playoff game for Meadowdale — and all but two games for the Mavericks (24-3 overall) during the regular season. Meadowdale pitching coach T.R. Smith estimated that Reuble threw about 500 pitches in her two days at Lacey.
And, “She was fantastic,” Smith said.
Smith, who started working with Reuble over the summer, was invited to be a coach at Meadowdale about a week before the season started. After working with last year’s Herald Player of the Year, Everett pitcher Lexie Levin, Smith began working with Reuble.
“She’s got good break on the ball, and she hits her spots,” Smith said. “She probably has the most movement of (pitchers in) Wesco. People can hit speed. People have a hard time hitting break.”
Reuble allowed two hits before giving up four hits and two runs in the top of the seventh inning against University. Perhaps, she just wasn’t ready for her high school career to be over?
“I kind of was thinking that in my head,” Reuble said. “People are probably thinking I’m trying to stay out here longer than I want to.”
The Mavericks found themselves in the third-place game, after losing a close 2-1 contest to eventual-3A state champion Kamiakin to start Saturday’s games.
It was the Mavericks first loss of the season to a 3A team — they lost to Wesco 4A’s Cascade and Snohomish — and snapped a nine-game Meadowdale winning streak.
Meadowdale then found itself facing Juanita in a loser-out game. The Mavericks defeated the Rebels 4-2. Reuble had nine strikeouts in the game, which was played less than an hour after Meadowdale’s tough loss to Kamiakin.
Kamiakin became the first 3A team to get back-to-back 3A softball championships since Kennedy did it in 2007 and 2008.
“When they lost that one, they knew that their next goal was to tie the ‘97 team, which won districts and also got third place in state,” Hopkins said. “So their goal then became, ‘Ok, you refocus and you retool. We’ve got to at least tie that record. We can’t let that go by.’”
Julia Reuble, Alyssa’s younger sister, had a two-run single in the Juanita game during Meadowdale’s four-run fourth inning.
The Mavericks continued to pile the runs on against University (21-7), scoring two early in the first inning and five in the fourth.
Haili Taylor batted 2-for-4 against the Titans with a double and two runs scored. Ashley Brooke went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a run scored and Alyssa Reuble batted 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Reuble walked in the final at bat of her high school career.
“We feel good,” Hopkins said. “We were a little disappointed this morning when we couldn’t quite pull it off but we were close. We were one out away and the magic kind of tailed off a little bit but we brought it back and were able to (get third place).”
Saturday’s wins came the day after a dramatic 10-inning victory over Enumclaw, where the Mavericks scored five runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to advance to the state semifinals. Hopkins, who has coached at Meadowdale for eight years and been the head coach for four of them, said the team figured out that they had seven comeback games in the seventh inning — or extra innings — and that had become somewhat of a trend this season.
“I’m always confident in the girls,” Reuble said. “We were the ‘Cardiac Kids,’ so we were going to come through one way or another.”
Hopkins said that had become a nickname for the team, which was known for nail-biting finishes for their coach.
“The Heart Attack Kids,” Hopkins said. “Seven comeback games this season. … It’s exciting. My heart would probably like less excitement. These are the greatest games ever. This is the best softball we’ve seen in a long time.”
And some of the best pitching thanks to Reuble, who will leave quite a void when she graduates. Fortunately for the Mavericks, it won’t be the last time they see a Reuble in a Meadowdale uniform.
Freshman Julia Reuble is still on the team, and she also pitches.
“We’ll still have a Reuble on the mound,” said Hopkins.
Meadowdale 7, University 2
At Regional Athletic Complex
University 000 000 2—2 6 2
Meadowdale 200 500 x—7 10 1
Brittany Hecker and Lacey Awbery. Alyssa Reuble and Rebecca Wright. WP—Reuble. LP—Hecker. 2B—Brooklynn Tacke (U), Ashley Brooke (M), Haili Taylor (M). Records—University 21-7 overall. Meadowdale 24-3.
Kamiakin 2, Meadowdale 1
At Regional Athletic Complex
Kamiakin 001 100 0—2 3 1
Meadowdale 100 000 0—1 4 1
Kate Austin, Jessica Edminster (7) and Tawny Becker. Alyssa Reuble and Rebecca Wright. WP—Austin. LP—Reuble. S—Edminster. 2B—Melanie Oord (K). HR—Becker (K). Records—Kamiakin not reported. Meadowdale 22-3.