Lady Cougs make big dance

Klahowya catcher Amy Renfrow (22) shares a joyful embrace with teammates Brittney Romano (left) and Karli Baumgartner at the West Central District tournament last weekend at Sprinker Recreation Area in Tacoma.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
Klahowya catcher Amy Renfrow (22) shares a joyful embrace with teammates Brittney Romano (left) and Karli Baumgartner at the West Central District tournament last weekend at Sprinker Recreation Area in Tacoma.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

TACOMA — When Central Kitsap pitcher Carolyn Cross put the finishing touches on a 2-0 shutout against Kentwood Friday, the Cougar dugout let out a collective sigh of relief.

For the first time since 2000, Central Kitsap is going to state.

“I’m so happy we’re going,” CK catcher Amy Renfrow said. “It only took two years.”

“We’re not used to this,” pitcher/first baseman Erika Quint added. “Usually we’d be crying. But we’re happy. Everyone wanted it. It’s really nice. I don’t even know what to say.”

The Cougars jumped all over Jefferson in a 6-1 win to open the 4A West Central District Tournament at Sprinker Recreation Area over the weekend, topping Kentwood to assure the Cougars of a state berth. And while the Cougs (19-5) fell 2-0 to unbeaten Kentlake and 3-1 to Graham Kapowsin, the team was still elated to enter as the district’s No. 6 seed.

“Finally,” Renfrow said. “Since we we’re mainly used to losing on the first day at districts, it’s good to win our first two.”

The past two seasons, CK came into districts with high hopes, only to exit the tourney painstaking close to advancing. As a result, Welling said the look on his players’ faces said it all.

“Look at ’em,” Welling said. “They’re excited. It feels good. For the school, the kids, the coaching staff. It’s an all-around good feeling.”

Cross and Quint both pitched well for the Cougars, and CK got offense and stellar defense from across the board. For example, Cross fired the shutout against Kentwood. Against Kentlake, Quint went the distance with a single, two-run homer accounting for the difference between the squads.

Defensively, Brittney Romano flashed her range in center field on a great catch against Graham Kapowsin. Kendall Sours single-handedly retired the side in the fourth inning against Kentwood. And Renfrow crushed the two-run homer that would become the game winner in the same contest.

Those are just a small sample of the plays, and players, that elevated CK back to the state’s premier tournament.

“Every one of ’em contributed,” Welling said. “What else can you ask for?”

On her shot, Refrow said she had no idea it was headed to the gap it found in left field.

“I didn’t know when I first hit it,” she said. “I didn’t even feel it. I wasn’t sure where it was going.”

But Quint knew.

“I was looking toward home before she even rounded,” Quint said. “I knew it’d be a home run.”

As a result, CK begins state play Friday at 11 a.m. in a first-round contest against Lake Stevens at the South End Recreation Area (SERA) fields in Tacoma.

Welling said he hopes the team comes out with the same feeling it had at districts against Kentwood.

“We have some good seniors leading the way,” Welling said. “That was the type of game where the feeling was, ‘They’re not going to win. We’re gonna win.’ We knew what we needed to do and didn’t beat ourselves.”

That will be the key to victory again, the coach said.

“We don’t play Lake Stevens on Friday, we play CK Friday,” Welling said. “If we don’t let CK beat us, Lake Stevens won’t beat us.”

Central Kitsap was the only Narrows League team to win its first-round game, and one of just two Narrows teams to advance to state.

While Welling likes that his players represent the Narrows League well, he knows that’s not their priority.

“I care about the league, but I want our girls to represent themselves,” he said. “They played two games against themselves and they won both against themselves.”

During the league and district tournaments, Welling used a combination of Cross and Quint in the games, with both getting to finish if they were pitching strong.

Welling said since the approach has worked well for him in the past, and with the arms readily available, he’ll probably turn to it once again.

“We did this when Erika was a sophomore with Tiffany Henry,” he said. “We did this quite often. We’re gonna use the same thing this week. It saves arms and changes things up too.”

But before CK gets to the next level, Quint said the Cougars are going to enjoy simply advancing to the state’s premier tournament a little longer.

“It feels really good,” she said. “It’s about time.”

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