By David Krueger Herald Writer
LACEY — After a thrilling, extra-innings comeback in its first-ever state playoff game, the Glacier Peak softball team took care of business a bit earlier in its second contest.
Glacier Peak erased a four-run deficit to defeat Prairie 5-4 in the first state game in the softball program’s history and an Aurora Ellison home run in the fourth gave the Grizzlies a lead they would not relinquish in a 5-2 win over Prairie in the 3A state quarterfinals at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
The Grizzlies face Enumclaw next today at 9 a.m. with a spot in the state championship game on the line.
“We’re getting timely hits from different people,” said Glacier Peak head coach Caitlin Nies. “Just up and down the lineup somebody new keeps stepping up.”
Prairie built a 4-0 lead in the early game highlighted by a two-run home run by Bridget Guiney. Glacier Peak didn’t get a hit until the fifth inning and started a three-run rally in the sixth that began with back-to-back hits by Jocelyn Matheny and Callie Bircher. Emma Bollinger and Lauren Nicksic drew back-to-back walks to for the Grizzlies’ first run, and Ellison drove two runs in with a single to get Glacier Peak within one.
Bollinger added a sacrifice fly in the seventh to tie the game.
Ellison struck again in the eighth, leading the inning off with a double. A sacrifice bunt moved Ellison to third base and she scored one batter later on a game-winning RBI single by Rebecca Ellis to center field.
“Aurora Ellison’s been huge for us,” Nies said. “In that first game she had a two-run hit and scored the game-winning run after she led off the (eighth) inning with a hit. She got a big home run (in the second game against Juanita).”
Willis and Ellison were both key in the Grizzlies’ second win of the day as well. Willis hit a two-run single to tie the game in the bottom of the second after Juanita scored a pair of runs in the top half of the inning.
Two innings later Glacier Peak took the lead on a solo home run by Ellison that easily cleared the center field wall.
“It felt good. It felt like it was going out,” Ellison said. “… It was so much fun. It was exciting to help contribute to the team for the win.”
Glaicer Peak pitcher Callie Bircher helped herself out with two more insurance runs on a single in the fifth as the Grizzlies won their seventh consecutive game.
“We’ve just been coming to every game with a good mentality and knowing that we’re going to win that game,” Bircher said. “My team and I have just been so pumped for all these games we’re playing and things have been going our way.”
Bircher, who pitched eight innings in the first game, was eager to get back on the mound two hours later for the semifinal contest against Juanita.
“It’s more of my adrenaline taking over,” Bircher said. “I’m really excited and ready to go.”
In the first contest against Prairie, the Glacier Peak coach kept telling the Grizzlies not to panic as they saw the Falcons build a 4-0 lead. Instead, she looked on as Glacier Peak — charged by the rally cries echoing from the Grizzlies’ dugout — put together a rally to get them back in the game.
“The team does a great job of supporting each other and cheering for everybody,” Nies said. “We just know that someone else can do it each day. It felt good to get game one out of the way and kind of get our feet wet. I thought in the second game we seemed like our comfortable, confident selves.”
Said Bircher: “We were picking each other up the whole game. We didn’t give up on ourselves. We were going to fight until the bottom of the seventh — then it ended up being until the bottom of the eighth — but we were going to bring it the whole game.”
Glacier Peak (17-8 overall) hopes to continue to bring it today, as it faces undefeated Enumclaw (27-0), which beat University 13-2 in another quarterfinal game, in the state semifinals at 9 a.m.
The Grizzlies hope they can keep things rolling and pick up their eighth win in a row.
And maybe one more after that.
“We’re going to get our sleep tonight because we want to come out tomorrow morning and get that win so we can take the state championship,” Bircher said with a laugh. “We’ll bring it tomorrow morning. We’re ready to go fight and try to get that state championship.”
Glacier Peak 5, Juanita 2
At Regional Athletic Complex
Juanita 020 000 0 — 2 6 3
Glacier Peak 020 120 x — 5 4 2
Milly Kawabata and Tatum Kawabata. Callie Bircher and Coral Hjert. WP—Bircher. LP—M. Kawabata. 2B—Abby Doney (GP). HR—Aimee Richardson (J), Aurora Ellison (GP). Records—Juanita 17-9 overall. Glacier Peak 17-8.
Glacier Peak 5, Prairie 4 (8)
At Regional Athletic Complex
Prairie 100 120 00 — 4 9 3
Glacier Peak 000 003 11 — 5 5 2
Maddie Williams, Tristan St. Peter (6) and Bailee Blechschmidt. Callie Bircher and Coral Hjert. WP—Bircher. LP—St. Peter. 2B—Jamie Phares (P), Jordan Shaw (P), Nicole O’Haver (P), Aurora Ellison (GP). HR—Bridget Guiney (P). Records—Prairie not reported. Glacier Peak 17-8 overall.