By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
The odds were heavily stacked against Meadowdale.
The Mavericks trailed Peninsula 3-0 heading into the top of the seventh inning in a first-round Class 3A state softball tournament game.
Meadowdale was three outs away from losing in its first appearance at state since 1997. The Mavericks, however, weren’t concerned about overcoming a 3-run deficit.
As he has all season long, Meadowdale coach Dennis Hopkins told his players to “just play in the moment.”
Hopkins’ message was a familiar one for the Mavericks: “One inning at a time. One pitch at a time. Don’t let anything bother you. … Just relax and have fun.”
Freshman Haili Taylor started off the inning with a home run and the Mavericks were off and running. Later in the inning with two runners on base senior catcher Shannon Haukap stepped to the plate and belted a 3-run home run to give Meadowdale a 4-3 lead.
Junior pitcher Alyssa Reuble retired Peninsula in the bottom of the seventh to secure the stunning 4-3 victory May 25 at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
“It was pretty much all heart,” Hopkins said.
Meadowdale couldn’t sustain the momentum in its quarterfinal game, losing 10-0 to eventual state champion Kamiakin. The Mavericks then closed out the tournament with a 3-2 loss to Wilson in a consolation contest.
The two defeats did not diminish what was a memorable postseason for Meadowdale (18-9), which had to win four straight loser-out district tournament games to advance to state.
“They enjoyed the whole experience all the way through,” Hopkins said of his players. “Obviously, it was not the result we wanted, but our goal was to get there. State was their goal from the beginning.”
Hopkins wasn’t surprised that Haukap, one of only two senior starters, came up big against Peninsula.
“She’s had a phenomenal season,” Hopkins said. “Every time it seems when we’re up against the wall, she finds a way to pull the team together and just make things happened. I’m going to miss that kid next year big time.”
Senior third baseman Lindsey Milner, who returned to the team after missing her junior season due to an injury, also came up big during the regular season and playoffs. Milner is headed to Central Washington University to play volleyball. But Milner might also try to play softball, a move that Hopkins heartily endorses.
“She’s a solid kid all the way around,” Hopkins said. “She has a great attitude.”
Hopkins notes that few athletes are able to play two sports at the collegiate level. He is convinced Milner is one of them.
“That kid can do it. She’s got the mentality and work ethic,” Hopkins said. “That wouldn’t faze her. She’s a great student also.”
Meadowdale started two freshmen for most of the season but have four in the lineup in the postseason.
“It was their time,” Hopkins said. “They showed what they can do.”
While appreciating all that this year’s teams accomplished, Hopkins cast an eager eye towards next season.
“Next year we want to bring home hardware,” he said. “We love the big stage. We want to get back to it.”
Whatever doubts the Mavericks had about how they matched up against the top teams in the state were dispelled last Friday.
“Once you get there … you realize you can play with them,” Hopkins said. “Just the experience of being there, you want it all the time. The players’ experience there makes them want it more and they’ll work harder to get there.”