EVERETT — Some things are synonymous with spring time in the state of Washington.
Blooming flowers, bipolar weather, basketball fans celebrating the elimination of the Oklahoma City Thunder and — for the past six years — the Snohomish softball team making an appearance in the state tournament.
The No. 2 Panthers (19-2) struggled to get anything going early offensively, escaped jams in the third and fourth innings and finally broke through in the fifth with a pair of runs on their way to a 6-4 win over No. 3 Everett (17-5) in a winner-to-state Class 3A District 1 Tournament matchup Tuesday at Phil Johnson Ballfields.
Seagulls senior Jackie Rookaird had a perfect game heading into the fifth inning, baffling Snohomish hitters to the tune of six strikeouts through the first four frames while pounding the outside part of the strike zone.
That’s when the Panthers made a key adjustment.
“We finally just started sitting on the outside,” Snohomish coach Patti Lande said. “… They started ripping that ball when they were sitting on the outside.”
Sydney Sandifer, who delivered a walk-off home run in Snohomish’s 7-6 win over Edmonds-Woodway earlier in the day, kickstarted the Panthers’ offense with leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth. Elle Everett followed by roping a line drive into the right-center gap for a run-scoring triple. The throw to get Everett at third bounced off her helmet, allowing her to cross home for a second run.
“(Coach Lande) said just to get in on the plate and that’s what we all did,” Everett said. “Sydney’s hit, that kind of lit the fire.”
Snohomish added plenty of insurance in the sixth after Taylor Khorrami greeted new pitcher Kassidy Millar with a leadoff double. Khorrami advanced to third after an error on a bunt attempt and came home on a wild pitch to the next batter.
Miscues in the field continued to bite the Seagulls in the sixth. Anna Robinson scored from third on a passed ball and a throw back to third base to try and stop Delaney Kaysner’s effort to go from first to third got by the third baseman and allowed the Panthers’ No. 3 hole hitter to score easily.
Snohomish added another run on a single by Jordan Crawford.
Everett, which had just made an improbable comeback from down 6-0 in the seventh inning of its first game against Arlington to win 7-6, looked like it might have another stunning comeback in store.
Annie Fowler and Rookaird each drove in a run to make it 6-2, and Kendall Tebatebai delivered another single that looked like it would extend the rally. Fowler scored easily from third and Rookaird eventually came across before Tebatebai was thrown out trying to get back to first after aggressively rounding the bag.
“I met with them right before we went out for the seventh inning and I said, ‘Everett never dies. They never roll over. We have to have the same intensity now as we did all throughout the game,’” Lande said.
Everett had its chances to take control early but couldn’t muster a clutch hit with runners in scoring position.
“Not being able to get the big hit, the timely hit with two outs,” Everett coach Mike Millar said. “It kind of came down to that.”
Snohomish advances to face Meadowdale in the district-title game at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Phil Johnson Ballfields.