SPOKANE — An all-Wesco final meant not only Snohomish County supremacy was on the line, but for the entire state as well.
Jackson didn’t want to give up its throne. And the Timberwolves showed so in emphatic fashion.
The Timberwolves came out on top in the battle of two conference rivals, as Jackson toppled Lake Stevens, 16-2, in a five-inning game to claim the program’s second consecutive 4A state title.
The Timberwolves are the first back-to-back 4A state softball champions since Kelso in 2009 and 2010.
“We felt like it was us against the world,” Jackson head coach Kyle Peacocke said. “That’s just the mentality they took about halfway through the season. They came together about halfway through the season and they said we’re going to do it, despite what everybody says and what happens.”
Jackson inflicted its initial damage in the third inning, as Julia Dillon led off the frame with a double to right, Iyanla de Jesus was intentionally walked and Jillian Hampson legged out an infield single to load the bases. Macy Tarbox’s two-run single and Laina Delgado’s sacrifice fly helped unload them to put the Timberwolves up 3-1.
Then, the Timberwolves blew the game wide open.
Dillon clubbed an RBI double and Hampson walked with the bases loaded to chase Lake Stevens starter Kaylie Hoskins out of the game in the fourth. Then the Timberwolves scored four more runs on a fielder’s choice, an error, a groundout and a wild pitch to assemble a commanding 9-1 lead.
The Timberwolves added seven insurance runs in the fifth to massage its lead and prompt the 10-run mercy rule.
Timely hitting was sparked in part by Lake Stevens’ decison to intentionally walk star two-way player, de Jesus, for each of her at-bats, according to Peacocke.
“They’ve been walking ‘Ice’ all year and the team’s been frustrated,” he said. “They all came together and said if we ever get that opportunity again, we’re going to hit. One through nine, we’re going to hit. They did it as a team and it was awesome.”
The offensive explosion capped a four-game journey of a day for the Timberwolves, with Jackson winning all four of its games on Saturday to capture the state title.
And it was close to not happening it all.
Jackson received some magic from an unlikely figure, its No. 9 hitter in Dillon, as the junior outfielder poked a walk-off single to left in the bottom of the ninth to propel Jackson over Camas, 4-3, in a dramatic extra-inning win in the opening round.
“That was probably one of the most nerve-wracking at-bats I’ve ever had in my career,” Dillon said after the win over Camas. “When I saw that ball go through the infield, I was so hyped up and all my emotions just kind of came out and I knew this was what was best for the team and we won the game and that we’re moving on.”
Then in the semifinals, Jackson assembled a 4-2 lead with three outs to play, but almost squandered it after loading the bases for Redmond’s Kiki Milloy, a University of Tennessee commit and daughter of former NFL safety Lawyer Milloy.
But de Jesus fanned her to send the Timberwolves into the championship game.
“To be honest, I was freaking out,” Peacocke said. “I was thinking to myself, oh it comes to this? But ‘Ice’ came through and she’s the best pitcher in the state of Washington and she showed it.”
De Jesus, aknown as “Ice” by her coaches and teammates, allowed two runs on three hits and struck out seven for the Timberwolves in Saturday’s state title game.
The numbers weren’t as gaudy this time around, when she allowed seven runs instead of just three during last year’s run, but given the circumstances in which de Jesus (formerly Pennington) pitched the majority of all four of Jackson’s wins on Saturday, it was a guttier performance.
“The fire, desire, will, she was going to do it no matter what,” Peacocke said. “She was determined. I’ve never met a kid like that, never seen a kid like that. (She’s) just a very special high school athlete.”
How’s her arm feel after pitching 23-plus innings in one day?
“Surprisingly, my arm is fine,” de Jesus said. “It’s my legs that are a little sore, but I wasn’t feeling that during the games.”
The Vikings struck first in the state title game, as Anna Lucas legged out an infield single and Alexis Psardelis drove her in all the way from first by dumping an RBI single to center in the first to put Lake Stevens up 1-0. Kiley Hubby roped a solo homer to left in the fourth for Lake Stevens’ only other run run.
One of the storylines with the tournament condensed mostly all into Saturday was how it would impact pitching. Both teams did their best to keep their aces fresh.
Jackson’s only chance to rest de Jesus came in its quarterfinal win over Tahoma, as Amanda Wingert tossed 2 1/3 innings in the 7-2 win.
Lake Stevens, which played three games on Saturday after playing one of the only four games before inclement weather derailed Friday’s action, rested Hoskins for two outs in the Vikings’ 12-4 win over Skyview in the quarterfinals and for the first inning-plus of their 6-3 semifinal win over Richland.
Vikings catcher Hubby was a standout for Lake Stevens, clubbing three home runs over four games, including a two homer, five-RBI performance against Skyview.
Lake Stevens advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2014 this season, despite capturing at least a share of the Wesco 4A regular season crown the past three seasons.
The Vikings will graduate key seniors Hoskins, Rachael Eichenberger and Emma Fortney, but 2019 was a year of progress for Lake Stevens.
“I think it’s really sweet,” Lake Stevens head coach Sarah Hirsch said. “The rumor was before the season started was Lake Stevens doesn’t have anything, across the whole league. For us to show up with kids who could actually play and coaches calling other coaches saying, ‘Is Kaylie Hoskins really that good,’ and her saying, ‘Yup, I’m really that good.’
“Just going from people saying, ‘Oh, they’re just alright,’ to second in state is great for us. The girls are fired up and I’m excited to see what else happens.”
Jackson will lose three seniors, all of which are significant contributors: de Jesus, Tarbox and Jessica Asantor.
But their ride together came with the sweetest of endings.
“We all grew up playing together, so all of this is huge,” Asantor said of the back-to-back state titles. “Yeah, we get the trophy and we get the plaque and we get a banner, but all that stuff doesn’t matter. What matters is we put it all out on the field for each other and I would go out for the person next for me and it really shows how much of a family we are.”
Grizzlies fall short of trophy
Glacier Peak won three consolation games, but fell short of a third-place trophy on Saturday, falling to the team that knocked the Grizzlies out in the opening round, 3-2.
The Grizzlies fell, 10-6, to the Bombers in the opening-round game, but responded by knocking off Eastlake, 2-1, thumping Chiawana, 13-3, and edging Tahoma, 4-3.
Due to time constraints, the third-place game wasn’t played on Saturday and both teams that advanced to the consolation final were awarded trophies.