Trailing 3-2 to Rogers High in the bottom of the sixth inning March 19 at home, Megan Riggs grabbed her batting helmet – wire facemask and all – and plopped it backward onto her head.
"Put on your rally caps," the Gig Harbor High junior yelled to her teammates.
The dugout complied, one by one flipping the white helmets around. Maybe a bit uncomfortable, maybe a bit eccentric, but it worked.
Lauren Forseth initiated the late surge with a one-out triple to right center. Two batters later, Jordan Adams drove Forseth in on a single to knot the score at 3.
"We’re trying to chip away at teams and just take one play at a time, and that’s what is getting us these victories," Forseth said.
The Tides kept chipping, and took a 5-3 lead following a single by Bailey Werner, two passed balls and an illegal pitch. Adams closed out the top of the seventh to cement the win.
"These kids are just competitors," coach Kara Dressel said. "I’ve got some fire on this team, and I’m glad they’re putting the energy where it should be this year. I think last year it went a little bit into ‘I’ instead of ‘team,’ and now I’m seeing that fire go through the team."
It’s a happy adjustment for Gig Harbor, which watched last season slip away with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Battle Ground in a third-round, loser-out contest at the 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament. The knockout punch came one week removed from a 4A Narrows League tournament title, where the Tides won three straight to earn the No. 1 bi-district seed.
"It was just really frustrating to end the season there," Adams said. "But I feel like it made us stronger because it was so upsetting that we learned from it ... we learned from our mistakes."
Dressel concedes there are still kinks to work out — an error here, a miscommunication there — but the Tides’ 4-0 record entering the week spells perfection, and last season’s demons appear long gone. Gig Harbor redeemed the Battle Ground loss March 17, defeating the Tigers 3-1 in the nonleague season opener. The Tides tacked on two more wins: a 14-1 blowout win against Curtis, and a 5-3 win over reigning 4A state champion Puyallup.
A lot of the early success comes on the shoulders of the pitching staff, which has allowed only two earned runs in its last three outings. Adams, the staff ace, pitched a complete game against Puyallup, striking out five, while No. 2 Abbie Hutton struck out four each against Curtis and Rogers behind a nasty change-up. The offense has supplemented well, averaging 6.75 runs per game.
"I think we’ll go into league hot," Dressel said. "We just have to sustain, keep it pumped up, work on some things at practice and tighten a few things up. … We’re not peaked yet."
Dressel purposefully scheduled the tough nonleague start — primarily against SPSL teams — to get the girls fired up early, in hopes of topping the 4A Narrows and early league favorite Olympia. The Tides kick off the regular season against Yelm at 4:45 p.m. Thursday (March 26).
But the buck doesn’t stop with a strong nonleague showing, or even a first-place league finish.
"We’re looking to bring it to state this year — that’s the goal," Dressel said, before pausing for a second to reconsider. "Not just bring it to state. I think we can win state."
It’s a long road for a program that hasn’t reached the tournament for 14 years, but, so far, the Tides seem to be rolling toward a May trip to Spokane.