The ball didn’t bounce Jackson’s way at the Class 4A state softball tournament.
The Timberwolves’ postseason was cut short by eventual state champion Shadle Park and Emerald Ridge, which was making its first-ever appearance at the state tournament.
The Highlanders of Spokane, the Class 4A runner-up in 2006, defeated the Wolfpack 5-0 in a first-round game May 25 at the South End Recreation Area softball fields.
Emerald Ridge then rallied from a 5-0 deficit to edge Jackson 6-5 in a loser-out game later that day to put an end to the Wolfpack’s postseason run.
Jackson drew a tough first-round opponent in Shadle Park, which was led by University of Oregon recruit Sam Skillingstad.
The junior pitcher pitched every inning for Shadle Park (28-1 overall) and led them to a 2-0 victory over Mountain View in the May 26 championship game.
The Timberwolves (21-5) played well against the Highlanders but were undone by a disastrous third inning in which Shadle Park scored all five runs in large part due to two errors.
“We were right in the game,” Jackson head coach Mike Moran said. “To give up five runs with two outs, you can’t give teams extra outs up here and we did that.”
Much of the talk coming into the tournament revolved around Skillingstad’s arm. Jackson’s five hits were the most of any of the four teams that faced the Highlanders in the tournament.
“As good as a pitcher as she was and we heard so much talk about her, we really clutched up,” said senior co-captain Jenna Mohrweis. “We really hit the ball well. Unfortunately we had one bad inning in defense and it kind of cost us the game. We really stepped up as a team as far as hitting the rest of the game.”
Jackson senior co-captain Morgan Frost said the Timberwolves relished the challenge in facing Skillingstad.
“I liked the way we came to the game with the right mindset,” Frost said. “I don’t feel that they won the game. I feel we lost the game.”
The loss sent Jackson into the losers’ bracket where they faced Emerald Ridge. The Wolfpack looked sharp in scoring five runs in the first two innings. Jackson had runners in scoring position in three out of the next five innings but did not score.
Emerald Ridge cut the deficit to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth and then tied the score with two runs in the seventh. With the international tiebreaker rule in force, Emerald Ridge pushed across the winning run in the ninth.
“When you get to state it’s the breaks and we didn’t make our own breaks,” Moran said. “We had them on the ropes early and we just didn’t tack it on when we should have been executing. We just didn’t execute. It’s that simple.”
A sense of overconfidence may have crept in, Frost added.
“We got a little too comfortable with our lead and underestimated the other team,” she said.
As she has done all season long, Mohrweis jump started the Wolfpack’s offense with an infield single in the top of the first inning. A walk by senior Nena Slocum advanced Mohrweis to second. She then scored on a single by sophomore Carly McEachran.
Slocum, who moved to third, then was driven in by senior Taryn Pearce, who singled to center field. McEachran eventually scored on a ground out by senior Lauren Reid as Jackson took a 3-0 lead.
In the second, junior Brooklynn York led off with a single to center field. She stole second and then came home on a single to center by Mohrweis, who took second on a fielder’s choice. She advanced to third on a wild pitch and came home on an infield single by McEachran.
“We thought we had a big enough lead, but with teams here you can’t expect to settle with that,” Mohrweis said. “We paid for it.”
The senior class, which numbers eight, helped Jackson to its second state appearance in three years and to three straight Western Conference South Division championships.
Many of the eight seniors plan to continue their softball careers in college. Mohrweis will be playing at Western Washington, while Frost is heading to a much-warmer Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.
Others moving on include Reid (Bellevue Community College), Crystal Kummerfeldt (Willamette University) and Slocum and Tamara Priebe (Everett Community College), Mohrweis said.
“That’s the most exciting for us, that even though we’re ending a season here, we’ll be starting new seasons,” Frost added.
Replacing Frost, Mohrweis and their fellow seniors won’t be an easy task.
“I think our future is very bright,” Moran said. “There are some good young players. We’ll be back here again soon. They (seniors) set a tone for the classes behind them and they’re going to be just fine.”
The Timberwolves learned a lot from this year’s tournament, especially how to play under pressure situations.
“You do not underestimate the opponent no matter what inning it is, no matter how big of a lead you have,” Frost said. “You always just stay on top and keep the intensity up.”
The returning juniors, sophomores and freshmen should have plenty of talented teammates moving up from the junior varsity team, which went undefeated this season.
But there will be some new faces. All three pitchers — Frost, Reid and Priebe — are graduating.
“They’ll be some competition for that next year,” Moran said. “We’re just going to throw out the best team we can. I think that the best team that we can throw out will compete. I think they’re going to be just fine.”