Three outs away from being sent to the consolation bracket in the Class 4A state softball tournament, Yelm High School needed something special to keep its season alive against Gig Harbor.
But the Tornados knew they could beat Gig Harbor, having won two of three against the Tides already this season.
A leadoff double from junior Carley Nelson got the rally started, and it snowballed from there Friday night in the state quarterfinal. The Tornados knocked in five runs in the top of the seventh inning to steal the game from the Tides, 9-5, at the Markel Sports Complex.
“Our team has a lot of heart,” said Yelm coach Lindsay Walton, whose team will play in the Class 4A state semifinals for the first time in her 11-year tenure with the Tornados. “They just never stop. We’ve had a few games early in our regular season where we had to score almost four runs early in the game. We know we can do it, we just never give up. Gig Harbor is a good team. We knew going into this game that it was going to be a dogfight.”
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With two runners on in the seventh and trailing by a run, Yelm freshman catcher Taylor Gubser delivered a two-run single to give Yelm the 6-5 lead. The Tornados didn’t look back, batting around the order during the seventh-inning outburst.
Gubser admitted after the game she was a little nervous.
“Honestly, it was kind of stressful,” she said. “There was a lot on the line there.”
The Tornados certainly don’t lack confidence, energy or spirit. The players and coaches were vibrant and vocal throughout the entire game, players in the dugouts wore sombreros, and any indication of tension from playing in a state tournament game was absent.
“That’s what it’s going to take to win the state championship: The team with the most energy and fire,” Gubser said. “I think that was an important thing in this game.”
The Tornados hopped on the Tides early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Yelm leadoff hitter Ally Choate was a thorn in Gig Harbor’s side all afternoon, going 4 for 5 with four singles and a run scored.
Gig Harbor stormed back late in the game, posting two runs in the fifth inning and three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead, but the advantage was short lived.
Yelm will play Woodinville on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. If Yelm wins, it could be an all-local final, as Puyallup will take on Snohomish in the other semifinal game. The championship game will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Puyallup 11, Rogers (Puyallup) 1: The Vikings smoked the Rams behind a strong pitching performance from Kennedy Robillard, who went 5 innings, allowing five hits, striking out three, walking one and allowing one unearned run. She didn’t have any lack of run support to keep her going, either, as the Vikings exploded for a seven-run fourth inning.
The Vikings scored on an error, and RBI double by Sophia Bjerk, an RBI triple by Maddie Besaw and a grand slam by Autumn Harris.
The Vikings were led by Bjerk and Natalie Joyner, who combined for six hits and seven RBIs. Puyallup will face Snohomish in the semifinals at 10 a.m. at the Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane. The winner will face the winner of Yelm and Woodinville for the state title at 3 p.m.
Jackson 9, Tahoma 2: Tahoma found itself on the wrong side of the bracket after losing its opening round game to University, 15-0. The loss to Jackson eliminated Tahoma from the postseason. Tahoma was reeling a bit coming into the state tournament, losing Seattle University signee Carley Nance to a season-ending injury in the SPSL tournament.
Curtis High School lost its first two games to Skyline, 6-0, and Richland, 11-4 to be eliminated from the tournament.
The Saturday morning semifinals pit two of the top Class 2A programs in the state — defending state champion W.F. West (24-0) against Fife (21-1). Both powerhouses won twice Friday to reach the 10 a.m. game at Carlon Park in Selah.
Both teams will go with their ace pitchers – W.F. West’s Lexie Strausser and Fife’s Anna Kasner.
“You’d be crazy to think this is just another game,” Michelle Nixon said. “W.F. West has always been strong with a long history of success.”
After a 4-1 victory over Forest Ridge/Bear Creek in the first round, W.F West blew out East Valley of Yakima, 10-0 in the quarterfinals.
Strausser, who hit a homer, gave up one hit over six innings, striking out seven. Olivia Dean, Kassidy Grandorff and Kim Frazier had two hits apiece.
W.F. West is 12-4 at the state tournament over the past four years, winning 2A titles in 2012 and last season.
“We’ve talked about being the (state favorite) since the beginning of the season,” Bearcats coach Mike Keen said. “It means if we have a bulls-eye on our back, then it means we are running up front.”
Fife’s Kasner was nearly unhittable on Friday, striking out 34 in two games. She gave up one hit in a 4-0 win over Orting, and threw a no-hitter in the 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Ellensburg.
Tumwater is the only other local still alive. After losing a 4-3 in the opener to Ellensburg, the Thunderbirds hit a walkoff home run to eliminate Orting in an 8-7 win. They meet Port Angeles on Saturday in the consolation bracket.