MONROE — During a midgame rain delay, the Snohomish High School softball team stayed loose by breaking out some dance moves.
When play resumed, the Panthers stayed cool under pressure and battled back from a pair of multi-run deficits.
And after a wild and wacky night — with some help from a league rival — Snohomish is a conference champion once again.
Avery Clark hit a go-ahead single in the top of the seventh and the visiting Panthers clinched the Wesco 3A/2A title with a 7-6 comeback win over Monroe in a rain-soaked league showdown Monday evening.
“The battle is what I’m really pleased with (from) my kids,” Snohomish coach Patti Lande said. “It wasn’t a perfect game, for sure. But it was awesome. They just fought through … and came back and got it. It was great.”
Snohomish and Monroe entered the pivotal matchup in the thick of a tight four-team race with Cascade and Everett for the Wesco 3A/2A crown.
But thanks to Cascade’s 13-2 win over Everett on Monday night, the Panthers (16-3, 13-1 Wesco 3A/2A) were able to lock up the league title with their victory.
Heading into Wednesday’s regular-season finales, Snohomish holds a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker over second-place Cascade. The Panthers beat Cascade 9-3 last Thursday to earn the head-to-head advantage.
It marks Snohomish’s seventh league title in the past eight full-length seasons. Over that span, the Panthers have gone 113-7 in conference play. That run includes a stretch of six consecutive league titles from 2013 through 2018 — with two apiece in the Wesco 4A North, Wesco 4A and Wesco 3A North.
However, winning a league championship is a brand-new experience for this crop of Snohomish players. None of them were in high school the last time the Panthers won a league crown.
“I would just love it for my seniors and it would just be awesome,” Lande said about the possibility of winning a conference title, prior to knowing the result of the Cascade-Everett game. “… For a senior (class) that’s had such struggles with COVID and just got robbed so badly, I would love for my seniors to be able to do that.”
Rain fell for much of the evening and halted the game for about 25 minutes in the fourth inning, with Monroe leading 2-1. For part of the delay, both teams gathered on the field and danced to the “Cupid Shuffle.”
“The girls all play against each other and with each other (in club softball), and it was cool to just see them all out there goofing around and having fun during the rain delay,” Lande said. “That was fun.”
Snohomish erased the first of its two multi-run deficits in the top of the fifth.
With the Panthers trailing 3-1, Snohomish sophomore Camryn Sage lined a leadoff triple into the right-center field gap and then scored on a sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, junior Emma Hansen smacked a run-scoring double to right-center field to tie it at 3-3.
Monroe (13-4, 10-3) regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. After a pair of Bearcats reached on bloop singles, freshman Scarlett Nagy launched a three-run homer over the center-field fence to give Monroe a 6-3 lead.
But the Panthers weren’t fazed.
“It was just trust,” Snohomish senior Alli Wilson said of her team’s resilience. “Just trust in our teammates and being able to cheer each other on and be loud and just try to have fun with the situation. I think because of our trust in each other, we were able to come back.”
After a leadoff double from junior Evalyn Messina in the top of the sixth, the Panthers loaded the bases with one out for pinch hitter Lily Bellak. Bellak, a junior who’d been serving as Snohomish’s bullpen catcher just moments prior, blooped a two-run single over the first baseman’s head to trim the deficit to 6-5.
The Panthers continued their rally in the top of the seventh, when Hansen led off with a triple into the right-field corner. Skyla Bristol, a junior, then drove in Hansen with a game-tying single to left field.
Then after a wild pitch moved courtesy runner Cheyenne Siegler into scoring position, Clark lined a go-ahead, one-out single up the middle to bring home Siegler and give Snohomish a 7-6 lead.
“It was just amazing,” Lande said of Clark coming through in a big moment as a sophomore. “She’s got many years to go, and she’s already (to) where she can be that calm in that moment. I was really excited for her.”
In the bottom half of the frame, Bristol struck out the side to seal the Panthers’ victory. She totaled six strikeouts in 2 2/3 flawless innings of relief, while retiring all eight batters she faced.
Messina had a massive day at the plate for Snohomish, finishing 3-for-4 with three doubles. Hansen also had multiple extra-base hits, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a double.
Through the first four innings, Snohomish mustered just three hits against Monroe senior pitcher Emma Nagy. But the Panthers’ bats came alive after the rain delay, totaling eight hits over the final three frames. They finished with seven extra-base hits.
With the victory, Snohomish extended its win streak to 13 games. The Panthers haven’t lost since a 2-1 defeat to Shorewood on March 25, which was their lone league blemish.
“We’ve just gotta keep fighting and keep trusting and just keep working,” Wilson said.