Slap hitters traditionally don’t hit for power.
Don’t tell that to Erin Roloff.
Her no-doubt-about-it grand slam to center field in the second inning gave the Olympia Bears the lead for good in what proved to be a 5-3 state-clinching victory over Puyallup on Friday in the 4A West Central District III fastpitch tournament quarterfinals.
Olympia (23-1) clinched its second state tournament berth in three seasons, and meets 4A Narrows League rival Yelm (17-8) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Kent Service Club Ballfields in the district semifinals.
Saturday’s other semifinal features Tahoma and Bethel; the two semifinal winners will square off in the 5 p.m. district title game.
The first two innings was all offense for Olympia and Puyallup. The defending 4A state champion Vikings put up three first-inning runs, thanks in part to Regan Byrd’s two-run double, to lead 3-1.
With 20 straight victories before its first loss, at the 4A Narrows League tournament against Gig Harbor, Olympia’s familiarity with trailing this season was few and far between. Roloff put an end to that with one swing — with two outs and the bases loaded, she crushed a pitch from Kennedy Robillard to center for her first extra-base hit of the spring.
Because the bases were loaded, she opted for her power stance.
“I had to give it all I had,” Roloff said. “Normally with runners on first or second I would slap, but I knew I had to hit it away.”
After that, senior pitcher Maddy Stensby, who also had her 11th home run of the season in the first inning, shut down the Vikings’ bats to finish with a game-high 14 strikeouts.
A familiar Yelm team awaits in the semis. After topping Emerald Ridge, 7-5, the Tornados dealt Todd Beamer a 3-1 defeat behind what coach Lindsay Walton called the best pitching performance of the season from senior Jessilyn Enlow. The senior produced a complete-game three-hitter and the Yelm offense played small ball, manufacturing a run apiece in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Sophomore centerfielder Ally Choate went 3 for 3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. Choate scored the final two runs, including an insurance run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Finch after Choate’s lead-off infield single.
Next week will be Yelm’s second time at state in program history, but good things happen when the Tornados do make an appearance. The team’s previous state trip was in 2004, when the Tornados made an unexpected run and won the 3A state title.
Choate knows the unexpected could happen again.
“(Back in ’04) they had great athletes. ... it wasn’t amazing athletes, but they came together,” she said. “And that’s what took them far.
“I think we can definitely do that this year.”