Tayelyn Cutler was just looking to do her job as a leadoff hitter Friday afternoon. She was looking for a pitch to drop on the grass to maybe start a first inning rally.
When Lake Washington pitcher Tess Bumiller left a fast ball up around the letters, though, Cutler did something better, giving Yelm an immediate lead with a line drive home run over the left field fence.
“That was crazy. I went up there thinking ‘I’m going to hit the ball, I’m going to get a base hit,’” she said. “When it came off my bat I said ‘wow, I got it.’ It definitely boosted my intensity and confidence.”
By the time Cutler took the Regional Athletic Complex mound in the bottom of the inning, she had a 3-0 lead. Given that she’d thrown her second no-hitter of the season in a 7-0 first round win over Southridge earlier, Tornado fans could be forgiven if they had an early sense of security.
Yelm (20-5) ultimately defeated the Kangaroos, 8-1, to move into Saturday morning’s 9 a.m. semifinals against Mountain View. Bonney Lake (22-3), which got back-to-back shutouts from University of Washington signee Brooke Nelson, the first a no-hitter over Hermiston, will play Garfield in the other semi-final.
The championship game begins at 1:30 p.m.
Yelm, fueled by singles from Maddie Plevyak – who would reach base in each of her five plate appearances – and Savannah Hyder, scored three times in the first. The Tornados added three more in the fourth when Cutler and Hyder singled and Yelm benefitted from a pair of Kang errors.
In the sixth, the Tornados tacked on two more when Plevyak, Taylor Gubser and Hailey Brown singled in succession to start the inning, followed by a sacrifice fly by Hyder and a single by Elena Castanon.
“Our offense was not on last Saturday at the district tournament. We scored one run,” said Yelm coach Lindsay Walton. “Today I said ‘we have to win every inning, we’ve got to score more or we’re not going to win a game at state.’ We showed up today.”
Meanwhile, only an unearned run in the fourth inning kept Cutler from back-to-back shutouts. She allowed just two hits and struck out 13, working out of bases loaded jams with minimal damage in the fourth and sixth.
“My rise was there and I had some changeups that worked really well,” Cutler said.
“Tayelyn’s a rock out there. She’s confident, leads by example,” Walton said.
It was in the bottom of the first, though, that defensive momentum swung Yelm’s way.
With one out, Lake Washington’s left-handed batting Elena Rosendal lined an opposite-field single to left and Cutler issued a walk to Jane Wilson. Kang clean-up hitter Lilly Bean lofted a soft liner toward right center that looked like it might fall in for a run-scoring single.
Instead, Yelm centerfielder Cydney Jarvis roamed to her left and dove full out to make the catch inches above the turf. When Wilson tried to advance after the catch, Jarvis threw back to the infield in time to double her up and end the inning.
“That was an amazing catch, another boost for our intensity,” Cutler, who struck out the next five batters after the play, said. “My defense always has my back, no matter how I throw.”
Yelm doesn’t know much about Mountain View – other than the Thunder handed Bonney Lake its worst loss of the season, 7-1, in the semi-finals of last weekend’s West Central/Southwest Bi-District tournament.
“They’ve got a solid pitcher (Sydney Brown) and went toe-to-toe with Bonney Lake,” said Walton. “Same story: We’ve got to show up offensively.”
In her no-hit win over Southridge, Cutler struck out 14 Suns.
“She had her change up working and they were swinging at her rise ball,” said Walton. “She did a good job of hitting the inside half of the plate.”
Cutler also hit a home run in that game while Calli Jesmer blasted two homers for Yelm, one solo, one of the two-run variety.
Meanwhile, Bonney Lake’s Nelson matched Cutler’s feat, no-hitting Hermiston, 5-0, on 19 strikeouts.
Gabby Jones went two for three for the Panthers, driving in two runs, while Hailee Huggins blasted a pair of doubles.
In their 1-0 quarterfinal triumph over 2017 champion Meadowdale, the Panthers scored the only run they would need in the fourth inning when Huggins doubled home Brynn Nelson.
Brooke Nelson scattered five hits and struck out 17 Mavericks.
A third South Sound team, Stadium, fell in the quarterfinals, 5-0 to Garfield, a team the Tigers had beaten earlier in the season. Mikayla Liljenberg went 2-for-3 in the loss.
In Stadium’s first round game, left-hander McKenna Braegelmann struck out 16 Edmonds-Woodway batters, giving up just two hits as the Tigers rolled to a 7-0 triumph.
Meri McElligott drove in a pair of runs with a double for Stadium, while Kate Nelson robbed E-W’s Annika Forseth of a home run to end the top of the sixth inning.
Stadium lost to Garfield, 5-0, later in the night.