North Thurston might be a newcomer, joining the state fastpitch tournament party for the first time since 1999, but from the Rams’ perspective, this is their home turf.
And when the Class 3A tournament starts Friday at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey, they’re hosting everyone else.
The Rams have used the RAC as their home facility the past two seasons, including all of 2015 due to renovations at the North Thurston High School almost five miles away. So naturally, Rams coach Pat Dahl said his team is treating this weekend like a typical home game.
“That’s exactly what we talked about,” he said.
How comfortable are the Rams at the RAC? After North Thurston (16-11) clinched a spot at state following its 5-2 bidistrict win over 3A Narrows League rival Capital, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association invited incoming state teams for a walk-through practice Thursday to get accustomed to the all-weather turf facility before the two-day tournament begins at 9 a.m. Friday. The Rams, however, said thanks, but no thanks. They’ve had enough preparation — on all four fields, in fact.
“We decided we don’t have to do that,” Dahl said. “It’s worked out pretty well.”
Home field advantage? Quite possibly for the local Rams, a team which doesn’t lack offensive power in their lineup. Five regular starters hit better than .450, led by senior shortstop Dominique Greeno (.638 batting average, 11 home runs, 47 RBI, 47 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, only five strikeouts), and Annelies Dahmen, Aaliyah Kautz, Tera Geimer and pitcher Ciarra Davis all have 44 or more hits. Greeno, a Northern Illinois signee, also is the school’s career home runs leader and Dahl called her one of the best athletes he’s seen — male or female.
“She could have played college ball last year, no doubt about it,” Dahl said. “She can swing it.”
Because the team relies on one pitcher, and that’s Davis (1151/3 innings pitched), Dahl said hitting became more of an emphasis at the start of the season and has led to more run production. The Rams put across an average of 9.5 runs per game.
“That’s been our focus,” Dahl said. “We’ve put a lot of work on our swings and our mechanics.”
The Rams open at noon Friday against three-time defending state champion Kamiakin — 3A’s first three-time state champion — but the field also features three one-loss teams: Everett (22-1); Enumclaw (22-1), last year’s state runner-up powered by junior pitcher Quinn Breidenbach, a UMass-commit; and Lake Washington (21-1), last year’s 2A state champion.