EVERETT — The Cascade High School softball team was just three outs away from a disappointing mercy-rule loss in the district semifinals.
Trailing 12-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, it appeared the Bruins’ push for their second-ever state tournament berth would have to wait for another day.
But Cascade wasn’t ready to give up just yet, and a miraculous comeback ensued.
Ashlyee Bloch hit a walk-off grand slam and the second-seeded Bruins rallied for six runs in both the sixth and seventh innings for a stunning 14-12 comeback victory over sixth-seeded Arlington in a winner-to-state Class 3A District 1 tournament semifinal game Tuesday at Phil Johnson Ballfields.
“I never counted these girls out for a minute,” Cascade coach Mike Perrine said. “When it looked like it was going to get ugly for a second, I said, ‘Hey, we’ve done our job this season. If we lose this game, that doesn’t define us. Let’s just go out and battle.’ That’s what it was. We just went out and battled, and these games will flip like that for you real quick.”
As a result, the Bruins are heading to state tournament for the first time since 2009, the program’s only other state berth.
Cascade (16-6) advances to face top-seeded Snohomish in the district title game 6 p.m. Thursday at Phil Johnson Ballfields.
The Eagles (16-6), who beat Shorewood 10-3 in their quarterfinal match earlier in the day, fall to the consolation bracket and face fourth-seeded Monroe in a winner-to-state game 4 p.m. Thursday at Phil Johnson Ballfields.
“It means the world,” Perrine said of qualifying for the state tournament. “These girls deserve it. They’ve been playing hard all year.”
Jaidyn Wilson hit a leadoff single and Tessa Hahn doubled to put runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth. Sophia Tripp followed with an RBI single and two batters later Sarah Anderson reached on an error that loaded the bases. Bloch kept the rally going with a grounder that skipped just out of the third baseman’s reach for an RBI single that cut Cascade’s deficit to 12-4.
Katelyn Pryor lofted a base hit into right field that scored a run, but the Bruins made baserunning mistake when the runner at first tried to take third while the base was occupied. Arlington threw the ball to second get the runner stranded between bases, but in the process Anderson took off from third and scored to make it 12-6. Abby Surowiec swatted a two-run home run just over the right-field fence in the next at-bat to make it 12-8.
Surowiec then retired the Eagles in order in the top of the seventh, the only time either team did so all game.
“Oh yeah,” Bloch said when asked if her team could feel the momentum shift. “We knew we were going to cap the comeback then.”
Wilson provided another leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh, and Hahn and Tripp walked to load the bases.
Taylor Browne hit a hard ground ball up the middle that Arlington’s shortstop made tough diving play on, but the Eagles’ second baseman couldn’t handle the throw for a force out, a run scored and the bases remained loaded.
Anderson rolled a ground ball to second, but a throw for the out at home forced the catcher to leap for the ball and Hahn slid in safely just before the catcher landed on the plate.
Bloch stepped up and took the first pitch she saw over the fence in straightaway center for the win.
“Honestly, I was just thinking first pitch,” Bloch said. “If it’s there, than I’m going to swing. That’s just my mindset when I go in there.”
“I thought it was going to (hit) the fence,” she added. “That was crazy.”
The two-inning, 12-run outburst came after what had been a tough day of hitting for Cascade.
Alexa Hamshaw hit a three-run home run in the first inning of the Bruins’ quarterfinal game against Marysville Getchell earlier in the day. But Cascade was shutout the rest of the way and held on to squeeze out a 3-2 win.
And in the first five innings against Arlington, the Bruins mustered multiple hits in only one inning.
While Cascade struggled to string hits together early, the Eagles flexed their muscles.
Arlington, which reached 10 runs scored for the eighth time in its past 10 games, swatted five home runs in its first six turns at the plate, including two in the fifth inning.
Tayler Stevens’ solo shot to dead center put the Eagles up 6-1 in the third, and Lexi Eck made it 8-1 when she blasted a two-run home run over the wall in left-center.
Ainsley Kahler hit a towering solo home run to left field and Riley Ryan mashed another solo blast to left two batters later for a 10-2 lead in the fifth.
Stevens put two more on the board in the sixth with her second home run of the game and put Cascade at risk of losing by the 10-run mercy rule.
Then the Bruins started to rally, and Bloch sent Cascade into a frenzied celebration at home plate with her clutch grand slam.
“They never give up,” Perrine said. “They’ll get down, but they’ll never give up.”