Lisa Nelson had no expectations for her Juanita fastpitch team at the Class 3A state tournament.
As it turned out, the number of expectations the junior pitcher had for the tournament matched the number of runs she surrendered.
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Nelson tossed her remarkable fourth consecutive complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits, and the Rebels erupted for eight runs in the seventh to win the state championship, 9-0, over Everett Saturday at the Recreational Athletic Center in Lacey.
Nelson pitched 26 scoreless innings in Juanita’s four tournament games — giving up just 10 hits — to power the Rebels to their first state title since 2011.
“She was lights-out this entire tournament,” said Juanita coach Traci Odegard. “It’s unreal what she did.”
In a tournament full of gifted hitters, not a single one could solve Nelson.
Juanita began its run to the title on Friday by defeating a once-beaten Enumclaw team many believed was the tourney’s best. The Hornets managed four hits against Nelson.
“That game is when we started to think all of this was possible,” said Nelson of the 1-0 victory. “We just continued to gain confidence as we went along.”
In the quarterfinals, Juanita beat North Central, 10-0, in five innings behind Nelson’s one-hitter.
It was more of the same in the semifinals, where the Rebels hammered Prairie, 8-0, with Nelson tossing her second straight one-hitter.
“This team had absolutely no pressure coming into the tournament,” Odegard said. “They just wanted to go out and have fun and not worry about anything.”
With Nelson dealing on the mound and Juanita stringing together hits, what was there to worry about?
Nelson also proved her worth as a batter in the title game by going 4 for 4 at the plate with 3 RBIs to help end Everett’s 23-game winning streak.
Her solo home run in the second inning gave the Rebels a 1-0 lead.
It was all the offense they needed.
“I’ve actually been struggling with my hitting the last few games,” Nelson said. “I didn’t do very well yesterday and earlier today (in the semifinals against Prairie). I guess I saved it all up for this game.”
The Seagulls (25-1) threatened in the fourth. With runners on first and second and no outs, Nelson retired the next three batters.
A similar situation occurred in the sixth, but center fielder Aimee Richardson preserved the shutout when she robbed Everett’s Megan Gordon of a possible extra-base hit with a diving catch in center field.
The Rebels (23-8) sealed up the championship with an eight-run seventh, taking advantage of three errors by the Seagulls and getting RBI singles from Nelson, Madi Hedlund, Richardson and Lexi Blackburn.
Remarkably, Juanita’s roster was the smallest among the 16 teams at the tournament, featuring just 12 players with three seniors and three freshmen.
“We’ve been thin all season,” Odegard said. “We’ve had to overcome injuries and overcome youth, but they just continued to battle; and at the end it was just a case of getting hot at the right time, I guess.”
Richardson came up with the big hit in the semifinals against Prairie, drilling a three-run home run in the fifth.
Everett advanced to the title game by knocking off three-time defending state champion Kamiakin, 6-5.
The Braves scored twice in the top of the seventh to grab a 5-4 lead before the Seagulls rallied in their half of the inning, getting a home run from Sydney Taggart before Gordon scored the game-winning run.
Kamiakin would go home empty handed for the first time in four years, dropping a loser-out game to Meadowdale, 12-0.
The Mavericks followed up their drubbing of the Braves by defeating Prairie, 12-9, to wrap up the third-place trophy.