The idea hit Tony Batinovich late Saturday morning, after the Puyallup High School fastpitch team blanked Woodinville in the Class 4A state semifinals.
That’s when the Vikings coach thought his young squad just might win it all.
Batinovich pointed around his infield — at the three freshmen who start at first base, third and shortstop, and especially at the left-hander who starts at second base.
“We’re such a young team” he said. “What it took was a lot of things falling into place and one helluva pitcher”
The pitcher, senior Marissa Miller, baffled Walla Walla through seven innings while freshman shortstop Natalie Joyner ripped a two-run triple that would be the game-winning hit as the Vikings earned a 4-2 win against the Blue Devils to claim their first state crown in fastpitch since 1978.
Miller was stellar Saturday at Dwight Merkel Sports Complex, shutting out Woodinville, 5-0, thanks to some timely fielding by left-handed second baseman Jordyn Bartelson , who started a key double play from her knees with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning.
Miller used a fastball and an assortment of breaking pitches to reach the final. But against Walla Walla she mixed in a change-up.
“It used to be my go-to pitch, but I didn’t needed in the first three games” said Miller, who was The News Tribune’s All-Area fastpitch player of the year. “I’ve never faced Walla Walla, but they had me scouted pretty well. They were hitting my fastball pretty well early and I needed to keep them off-balance”
Leading 2-1 in the fifth inning, Puyallup’s Emily Ensrud led-off with a bloop double down the left-field line and moved to third on an infield hit by Bailey Plumb. Joyner then drove the ball into the gap in right center field to clear the bases.
Miller insisted throughout the tournament that she treated each game the same as any other. But in the final innings against Walla Walla, her pitches had a little something extra — despite her outward calm.
“I don’t remember Marissa ever pitching as well as she did this weekend” said senior catcher Kylie Perez. “She was so calm out there and she just went after hitters”
Miller’s poise rubbed off on her teammates, too.
“It starts with our pitcher” Bartelson said. “When she’s calm and relaxed, it makes the rest of us the same way. We feed off her”
Bartelson and Ensrud sparked the Vikings through the four state games — Ensrud with her speed around the base paths and Bartelson with the kind of toughness you expect from a two-time state wrestling champion and NCAA Division I soccer prospect .
“I’ve been playing second since I was little” she said. “I’ve always liked to play infield and it just comes naturally to me”
BETHEL PLACES FOURTH
Richland roared back from a first-round loss to earn the third-place trophy, beating Bethel, 11-1, in five innings via the 10-run rule. The Braves finished fourth.
The Braves scored their first run in the fifth inning, cutting the deficit to 7-1, but the first two Bombers reached base in the bottom of the inning on infield errors and scored four runs before the game was called.