Sports

BACK TO STATE

“Firsts” are a way of life and often provide special moments.

First car. First house. First love.

That sentiment doesn’t extend to the Klahowya softball team, though, as the Eagles make their third consecutive appearance in the state tournament, which began at 11 a.m. Friday against Ridgefield at Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee.

“I don’t think we’ve been as excited to go to state before,” KSS senior catcher Andrea Henning said. “We didn’t expect to go to state and we had to work hard.”

KSS (10-14), which finished 1-2 in last year’s state tournament, needed four games to qualify for state this year. The Eagles earned a berth to Wenatchee by defeating Eatonville 13-2 on Monday in a game that began Saturday but was suspended because of rain.

The Eagles’ first opponent Friday was Ridgefield, which lost 6-3 against Montesano in last year’s state championship game.

“I really know nothing about them, but I’m excited to see what it’s all about,” KSS freshman third baseman Brittany Devitt said.

KSS coach Jodie Woolf knows Ridgefield, which won the Southwest Washington League Trico Division with a 13-1 record, is a tough opponent, but she refused to gripe about the difficult draw.

“There’s no easy team at this point,” she said. “It comes down to not making mistakes. That’s been our biggest issue ... making errors and letting it snowball.”

One advantage the Eagles have is big-game experience in addition to their previous postseason games. With freshmen eligible for high school competition at KSS this season for the first time, Woolf scheduled some games against 3A and 4A schools. The results were mixed with KSS defeating 3A Peninsula, 11-6, in the season-opener on March 15 and a 16-0 loss against 4A North Kitsap four days later. Klahowya also regularly faced a pair of 3A schools — North Mason and Sequim — in the Nisqually League Olympic Division. North Mason featured Tiffany McDonald, The News Tribune’s All-Area fastpitch player of the year, who signed with Florida State.

“She’s the best pitcher in the state,” Woolf said. “It’s good to know that two of the toughest teams in our league aren’t an issue anymore.”

Ridgefield could be just as formidable, though. Regardless, the tournament is double-elimination, which means the Eagles still could place as high as third even with a loss by winning out through the consolation bracket.

Either way, the Eagles are proud of their accomplishments this season.

“It’s nice to leave our mark with the younger girls,” KSS senior outfielder Sarah Gambos said. “Hopefully, they’ll build on it.”

l Devitt earned first-team All-League honors as a utility player, Woolf said. Three other KSS players earned second-team All-League honors, including Andrea Henning (catcher), Caitlin Henning (pitcher) and Alicia Holloway (outfielder).

l Woolf said her team finished seventh academically among all 2A softball teams in the state.

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