As Monroe’s confidence grew toward the end of the regular season and began brimming at the district playoffs, Bearcats softball coach Mike Birch had a hunch his club could make a state run.
Birch, in the three practices leading up to the 4A state tournament, offered a simple message to his players: Nothing is going to improve mechanically, so lock in mentally.
Monroe headed to the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane laser-focused, put together two of its best games of the season and finished Friday’s opening day still vying for a state championship.
After a slow start, Monroe pulled away in the final three innings to earn a 9-2 win Friday morning against Tahoma, then dispatched Battle Ground 13-1 in five innings in a quarterfinal.
“Really, I think it was just the mental approach,” Birch said. “We talked about really thinking about what the pitcher is giving you. We had (in the past) a bad habit of swinging on 3-1 counts regardless of the pitch, and (Friday) we had several additional walks more than we normally would have. We really worked our zone instead of taking hacks.”
The win advances Monroe, which last reached state in 2012, to the 4A state semis for the first time in school history. The Bearcats (21-5) face Woodinville at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Junior pitcher McKenzie Schulz was dominant, pitching all 12 innings and giving up just three runs. She contributed offensively, too, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI against Tahoma, and 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI against Battle Ground.
“She is the one in the circle. She is either the hero or the goat,” Birch said. “I’m really proud of her. I don’t know what to say. I just think the world of her.”
Schulz got plenty of help. Morgan Allen went 3-for-4 with five RBI against Tahoma. Against Battle Ground, Kacey Hvitved was 2-for-4 with four RBI, and Megan Rybar was 3-for-3 with a triple.
Jackson yielded just three runs over the course of three games, and despite a loss, the Timberwolves survived day one and advanced to Saturday with a shot at a state trophy.
Jackson opened the 4A tournament n Spokane with a 3-0 win over Auburn Mountainview, but the T-Wolves’ bats went cold in a 3-1 defeat to Puyallup. Jackson bounced back in the nightcap, shutting out Richland 7-0.
The Timberwolves (22-4) face Walla Walla in a consolation-round game at 10 a.m. Saturday.
With Everett’s tournament life at stake, the Seagulls rallied in their second game of the 3A state tournament and carried that momentum into a nightcap win in Lacey.
The victory advances Everett (18-9) into a consolation game against Lake Washington at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Everett dropped its opener 2-1 to Holy Names and was trailing heading into the seventh inning against Juanita before pulling out a 5-4 win. That setup a winner-advance, loser-out matchup with fellow Wesco 3A opponent Edmonds-Woodway, and the Seagulls topped the Warriors for the fourth time this season, winning 4-2.
“Both teams know each other really well, and it was a lot of fun playing them,” Everett coach Mike Millar said.
Leading by three runs over Mount Spokane, the Panthers were three outs away from a trip to the 3A state semifinals, but Snohomish couldn’t quite close.
After an 8-4 win over Lake Washington in the opener Friday at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey, the Panthers suffered a heart-breaking 5-4 walkoff loss in eight innings before bouncing back with a 15-1 five-inning win over Bainbridge to advance to the second day of state.
“It’s all about heart,” Snohomish coach Lou Kennedy said of his team’s ability to bounce back from its loss to Mount Spokane. “A lot of teams once they lose, they fold, but these guys don’t do that.”
The Panthers (23-3) face Gig Harbor at 9 a.m. Saturday in a consolation game.
Meadowdale opened with a promising start to its 3A state tournament, but suffered consecutive losses and ended its season in Lacey.
The Mavs (19-6) earned a 1-0 win over Garfield to advance to the state quarterfinals before suffering a 5-4 loss to Bonney Lake. A quick turnaround Friday night against Lake Washington led to a 7-4 season-ending defeat.
The loss ended Meadowdale’s quest for back-to-back state titles.
Edmonds-Woodway ran into a powerhouse Redmond team in the 3A state quarterfinals and couldn’t recover against Wesco 3A foe Everett, ending its season Friday in Lacey.
The Warriors (15-12) opened state with a 3-2 win over Kelso, but suffered a 10-0 defeat against Redmond, which set up a winner-advance, loser-out game against Everett. Edmonds-Woodway lost 4-2, falling to the Seagulls for the fourth time this season.
Jazz Zenk and Kierra Scott helped Mountlake Terrace open the 2A state tournament with 5-2 win over Sequim in Selah.
Zenk was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer, and Scott pitched a complete game. Terrace suffered a 9-3, 11-inning loss to Ellensburg in the quarterfinals and didn’t finish its winner-to-Saturday, loser-out game against Tumwater by press time.