There’s no arguing the fact that Puyallup High senior pitcher Marissa Miller is the main reason the Vikings are one of the best fastpitch teams in the state.
But Puyallup has also gotten an unexpected boost from a strong starting core of freshman and sophomores this season.
That combination proved to be potent yet again Friday afternoon at Service Fields in Kent, as Puyallup knocked off Todd Beamer, 5-2, to capture the program’s first-ever Class 4A South Puget Sound League title.
“I think we thought we’d be competitive (coming into the season),” Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich said. “I don’t know if we thought we’d be this competitive.”
Miller allowed just two runs — both unearned — and struck out five while going the distance to earn the victory and improve her personal record to 18-1 this season. But the victory didn’t come without a handful of challenges from Todd Beamer (15-6), which handed Tahoma its first loss of the season earlier in the afternoon.
The Titans loaded the bases in the first and put runners at second and third in the fourth against Miller, yet only got a single run to show for it. Freshman shortstop Natalie Joyner snared a hard line drive off the bat of starting pitcher Maddie Rogers to end the Beamer threat in the fourth, and Puyallup also got solid play from freshman third baseman Brooklyn Bartelson.
“I know that they’re going to make mistakes because they’re young, but that can’t affect how I’m going to pitch and face batters,” said Miller, whose ERA this season is under 1.00. “You just have to trust you’ll hit your spot and your teammates will make a play, and that’s what they did,”
Puyallup took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third, getting one run on a sacrifice fly from Joyner and another on Kylie Perez’s RBI single off. After Beamer cut the lead to 3-2 in the fourth, the Vikings came back with two runs in the seventh thanks to some shaky Titan defense.
“We had some uncharacteristic (throwing errors) that we haven’t been doing (this season),” Beamer coach Brian Hering said.
Beamer put two runners on in the bottom of the seventh, but Miller hung tough, closing the game with a strikeout and a flyout to left field.
“This year my endurance has been better, (and) I’ve been able to hit my spots and get those key outs at times,” Miller said.
Joyner drove in three runs with a pair of sacrifice flies and an RBI groundout, while Jordyn Bartelson and Bailey Plumb had two hits apiece for Puyallup (19-2), which heads to next weeks West Central/Southwest District tournament as a No. 1 seed. Beamer will go as the No. 2 seed.
“I want to get to the state tournament because I’ve never been there before, so that’s my goal,” Miller said.