On the outskirts of Yelm, this distinct sound rings throughout a quiet neighborhood on a nightly basis.
It comes from a multiple-car garage that has been cleared out to make room for a 36-foot-long batting cage.
Dan Choate built it all himself eight years ago as his daughter – Yelm High School’s Ally Choate – grew more serious about softball
Ally Choate is now a senior at Yelm High School. She is the leadoff hitter and chase-anything-down center fielder for the No. 1 Tornados, who won the Class 3A West Central/Southwest bi-district title Saturday at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway.
A Seattle University signee, the 5-foot-4 Choate has been huge for Yelm. She hit .585 in 94 at-bats. She scored 48 runs. She stole 24 bases. And she struck out just two times in earning 3A South Sound Conference player of the year honors.
Choate is also The News Tribune’s 2017 All-Area softball player of the year.
Yelm was the class program in the area, too. Not only did the Tornados sweep aside all league opponents, they defeated the 2016 4A SPSL champion Puyallup, 3A PCL winner Bonney Lake (twice) and 2A Evergreen champion W.F. West as part of their unbeaten 25-0 record.
“She reminds me of Trysten Melhart, who plays at the University of Washington,” Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich said. “We played against her (at Snohomish), and if she got on first, she would end up at second because she was so fast.
“Ally can also hit for pop if she has to. She can drop something down and run it out if she has to. She is the complete package as a leadoff hitter from the left side.”
Back at home, Choate and her father have a distinct routine they adhere to in the batting cage.
With Dan sitting in a chair tossing her pitches, she goes down the checklist.
“The first bucket of balls is for the power slap. The next bucket is to drill the chop slap. The third bucket, I hit for power. And the final bucket is for going over situations, like have a runner on with no outs, and trying to move her over,” she said.
Then there is the other type of situational hitting Choate rehearses – simulating at-bats against certain ace pitchers.
Back in 2015, Choate’s sophomore season, the Tornados were up against Olympia in a key 4A Narrows game.
The night before the showdown, Choate asked her father to throw a steady diet of hard, inside pitches – something she expected to see from Bears’ ace Maddy Stensby, the area’s top pitcher.
“I saw 200 of those pitches,” Choate said.
In her first at-bat against Stensby the next day, Choate let a rise ball go by on the first pitch. The second offering was what she jumped on – and inside fastball – and she hit it over the right-field wall for a home run.
“A big smile came over her face,” Yelm coach Lindsay Walton said. “She picks up her game a notch when she is in there with the top pitchers. She is a very disciplined hitter. And she is really good at seeing the ball.”
But what really stands out about Choate is her speed, on the basepaths or tracking down line drives in the gap.
Choate said she knew she was fast by doing track and field in middle school. She has been clocked going from home to first base in 2.6 seconds. And her round-the-bases time is 11 seconds.
Walton said her favorite Choate moment came on defense. When Yelm played Gig Harbor for the league title, a Tides’ shallow fly ball appeared headed for a single.
Not with Choate in pursuit.
“She came out of nowhere and made a diving catch to end the inning,” Walton said. “It was beautiful. It’s just amazing how much ground she can cover because she is so fast.”
Choate has been committed to Seattle U since before her sophomore season, and did not waver on that decision in the years to follow, even when a bigger-school opportunity came her way.
“The biggest thing about softball is to have fun,” said Choate, who holds a 3.97 grade-point average, and wants to pursue a degree in education. “What is the point if it’s not? I don’t want it to be a job. And at Seattle University, I am going to be confident there, get tons of playing time and I will fit in there.”
But this week, Choate and the Tornados have one final goal in mind: Winning the Class 3A title in Lacey.
“I think I play better with pressure, because I know every pitch counts, every at-bat counts and every catch I make counts,” said Choate, who got 14 hits in 15 at-bats in four district games. “I get this feeling in me that I have to perform.”