For years, it was a lock. You could write it down. Skyview softball was going to state.
In 2001, the young school won the Class 3A state championship. The next five seasons, as a 4A program, the Storm went to state again.
They finished fourth in 2002. They reached the semifinals in 2003. In all but one of those seasons, the Storm won at least two games in the tournament.
Storm. Softball. State. Softball. Storm. State.
They were linked.
But the balance of power shifted. Skyview never hit rock bottom, but the Storm failed to make it back to state for four seasons.
Well, the balance of power has shifted once again.
The 2011 Skyview Storm, with one senior on the roster, won the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League championship, finished third at the bi-district tournament, and are heading to Spokane for the 4A state tournament Friday and Saturday.
“I don’t think any one of us expected to get this far at the beginning of the season, but once league season started, we realized we would achieve everything we wanted,” said junior Alysa Huntley, who plays second base. “We had the talent.”
This year’s players are celebrating the present and thinking of the future.
They have a freshman pitcher who also has accepted the role of vocal leader.
They have a sophomore leadoff hitter who is batting better than .600 and happened to hit the tying home run in a game that eventually lifted Skyview to state.
They do not rely on a star. Instead, they have a collective talent with a team-first mentality.
“Each one of us has a strength,” junior Addi Lies said of the key to the team’s success. “One person can’t be dominant all the time, so we can switch off.”
Skyview coach Traci Fuller said this is a fun group to coach because she never knows who will have the next clutch performance.
“The best thing about this team is it’s not one or two people who carry us,” Fuller said. “If my ‘best’ players don’t get it done, somebody else does. Every time.”
Bringing Skyview softball back to state has special meaning to Fuller. She took over the job in 2008, a year after her stepfather, Dale Ogden, resigned. It was Ogden who built Skyview into a perennial winner. Now, it’s Fuller’s job to try to emulate that success.
“I strongly believe we’ll be back next year. I hope this gives them a taste for it and a desire to get there every year,” Fuller said.
For the lone senior on the team, Kamille Dobbins, this will be her only trip to state. No matter what happens in Spokane, she gets to say she was part of a league championship and part of what the Storm hope will be the return to special status.
The rest of the players get to think big not only this week, but the future as well.
“No one looked at Skyview softball as a big thing,” Lies said, referring to recent history. “It’s really helpful to say we’re good and we can do it, to get recognition from our school.”
To get that recognition, the Storm had to earn it.
At the bi-district in a winner-to-state game, Skyview trailed by four runs to Thomas Jefferson of Federal Way, tied it, then fell behind again by three runs. The Storm would not relent, though, rallying for an extra-inning victory.
Huntley remembers hearing words of comfort from freshman pitcher Michelle Brincefield, who got the pitching win in relief.
“She kept saying, ‘You guys, this isn’t over.’ She kept us pumped,” Huntley said. “Once one person gets pumped up, we all feed off of that.”
That’s just another interesting tidbit about this team — a freshman as the loud voice of reason in the middle of a chaotic situation.
Brincefield said the older players have welcomed the younger players.
“They said, ‘If you’re the one who wants to get us pumped up, get us pumped up.’ I’m there for them, and they’re there for me,” Brincefield said. “We’re all in this together.”
Skyview trailed by a run in the seventh inning of that Jefferson game when sophomore Madison Anthony crushed a ball down the left-field line. With no high school softball fences on this particular field, Anthony had to leg out a home run. The lead-off hitter was across home plate before the ball got back into the infield.
In the ninth inning, Dobbins got the well-placed blooper into shallow right field to score two runs for a 9-7 victory.
“We’re really good at coming back because we have faith in each other,” Huntley said. “It was nerve-racking, but we didn’t give up. We all leaned on each other.”
That effort got them to the state tournament.
It might have been far-fetched at the beginning of the year, but now they knew they always had it in them.
Now, they also know they have it in them to make this a recurring theme.
Skyview. Softball. State.