By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
MONROE — For three years the Snohomish softball team’s five seniors dreamed of making it to the state tournament. They accomplished that goal Tuesday with a win over Lynnwood in a Class 4A District 1 semifinal.
On Thursday, the Panthers capped it off with a district championship, defeating Lake Stevens 9-5.
“The fact that we’ve actually achieved all of our goals that we’ve wanted this season, it’s a huge weight off of our shoulders,” Snohomish senior starting pitcher Bailey Seek said. “Especially for our seniors who’ve wanted it for the past three years and haven’t gotten it.”
The excitement was evident on the faces of the players and coaches, but there also was a sense of relief. Panthers head coach Lou Kennedy had never won a district championship, let alone qualified for state in his 10 seasons at Snohomish.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” Kennedy said. “It really hasn’t. I know how good this team can play when they put it all together, kind of like today, when you see everybody getting a hit when it matters. It’s pretty impressive.”
The Panthers trailed 1-0 in the second inning, but tied the game with an RBI single from junior Morgan Greenlee. In the bottom of the third inning they took the lead for good on the second home run of the season for senior Jennie Winston.
Winston made several key plays at shortstop to go along with her home run, but Kennedy said her leadership is just as valuable to the Panthers.
“She’s a real settling force,” Kennedy said. “Jennie can get very excited and very energized, but what she doesn’t do is take all that adrenaline and energy and try and do extra. She always plays clean.”
Winston’s home run led off a four-run inning for Snohomish, which led 5-1 after three innings.
The Panthers added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on sophomore Alyssa Simons’ two-run single. At the time, the two runs seemed to just pad the lead, but they proved to be extremely important a half inning later.
The Vikings were able to string together three consecutive singles with one out in the top of the fifth inning and senior Rayne Sylvester capitalized with a towering home run to straightaway center field to cut the Snohomish advantage to two runs.
That was as close as the Vikings would get.
Outside of the four runs on four hits in the top of the fifth inning, Seek was in control from the pitcher’s circle.
“She’s been that so often this year,” Kennedy said. “It’s completely and totally impressive. I remember as a freshman coming in she was talented, but the mental toughness hadn’t developed because, of course, she was 14 years old. The kid she has turned into this year is the stud she’s always had the potential of being.”
Senior Trysten Melhart’s RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning and Simons’ solo HR in the bottom of the sixth inning accounted for the Panthers’ final two runs.
“Everyone started hitting and when we needed runs, we got runs. And when we needed outs, we got outs,” Seek said. “It was awesome to see us come together as a team when we needed to.”
Monroe 6, Lynnwood 4
MONROE — After dropping the first game of the district tournament to Lynnwood on Tuesday, the Monroe softball team was faced with the challenge of winning three consecutive games to secure third place in the and advance to play the third place team from Kingco for a berth in the state tournament.
The Bearcats accomplished that goal on Thursday — and they did it by avenging their first-round loss to Lynnwood, beating the Royals 6-4.
“We’ve done that a couple of times this season, where we’ve just had a real stinker of a game and come back from that and really come back strong,” Monroe head coach Mike Birch said. “Today they played the ball that they’re capable of. It kind of sets the tone for us going into Saturday’s game.”
Lynnwood trailed by four runs going into the bottom half of the seventh inning and quickly scored two more two pull within two.
Birch remained confident in his team.
“Today I wasn’t (worried), Tuesday I would’ve been,” he said. “On Tuesday they panicked. Today they didn’t panic. They just calmed down and got the outs they needed to get at that point.”
Monroe senior Kathleen Sundet finished 1-for-2 at the plate with a solo home run. It was the Bearcats’ fifth home run of the tournament.
“We hit five home runs in this district tournament from five different players,” Birch said. “That kind of speaks volumes to the type of team (we have). At any given time someone can contribute and today was her day.”
The Bearcats host Newport at 2 p.m. on Saturday in a winner-to-state/loser out game.
With Snohomish and Lake Stevens clinching the top two seeds from the tournament on Tuesday and Monroe taking the third seed on Thursday, the top three seeds are all from the Wesco 4A North.
Aaron Lommers cover prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.