There wasn’t a high school softball team in Wesco 3A last year that enjoyed a better season than the Meadowdale Mavericks.
An undefeated run in league play led to a Class 3A Northwest District title and an eventual quarterfinal appearance at the 3A state tournament.
Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they ran into a buzzsaw in the circle during the quarterfinals in Bonney Lake’s Brooke Nelson, the state’s leader in career strikeouts who is now a pitcher for the University of Washington’s highly regarded softball program.
Meadowdale couldn’t muster a run in the 1-0 loss, but was never out of contention thanks to a stellar pitching performance from its ace, then-junior Kate Houghton.
Houghton, a 2019 All-Area selection by The Herald, went pitch for pitch with the state’s strikeout queen that afternoon at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. The Meadowdale right-hander kept her team’s hopes to advance to the semifinals only one swing away until the final out was recorded.
“It’s definitely really inspiring to play against someone who’s lined up to do all these great things,” Houghton said of facing Nelson. “… It was definitely good to see all the practicing and stuff like that pay off.”
It was another in a long line of quality outings for Houghton, who posted 245 strikeouts and a 1.79 earned-run average and tossed nine shutouts, three no-hitters and a perfect game in 2019.
Houghton and Meadowdale were primed for another deep run this season after graduating only one senior from last year’s squad. Those hopes were dashed when prep sports across the state were canceled this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Herald recently spoke with Houghton about softball, her college plans and how the Meadowdale dugout comes up with some of its best cheers and chants:
When did you start playing softball and how were you introduced to the game?
I moved (from Poulsbo) in third grade to here, and my friend was playing softball for Pacific Little League. She just invited me to practice and I actually got hit in the head the first practice.
What were you most looking forward to this season?
Definitely just having the last season with the seniors. There were like six of us, I think. That’s a lot and we’ve all played together since like elementary school. (And) definitely going to state and trying to get a trophy.
You’ve signed to play softball on the other side of the country at Central Connecticut State University. What drew you to that decision?
I found (CCSU) because I was playing at a tournament in Boston (with the Absolute Blast select team) and I did really well. We did a tour of the colleges that were at the tournament and I really liked Central Connecticut. … I just really liked the campus and the area it’s in. It’s in a cool little town.
Wesco is known for being a pretty strong softball conference. How do you think the level of competition compares to travel ball?
I think select is definitely harder. But once you get to state and you’re kind of playing the teams that are winning more, then it kind of levels out.
You hear a lot of different chants coming from dugouts during softball games. I thought Meadowdale had some really good ones at games I covered last year. How much goes into coming up with those? And who on the team is best at it?
Our assistant coach, Kaylee Hagen, she’s just really full of energy and we definitely just feed off of her for sure. We do notebooks after every game. At the beginning of the season, cheer more is our goal, and by the end of the season, we’re just doing all of our chants and dugouts without having to remind each other.
What do you plan to study in college?
I’m thinking about athletic training, but I really haven’t decided yet.
Were you involved in any other clubs or activities at school?
I did sports medicine club my junior year. … There’s some field work and I did a lot of football games and basketball games just following our trainer. Sometimes you have to tape wrists for players and fill up water bottles.