Ridgefield softball returns to state seeking hardware

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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For Ridgefield standards, it has been a long time since the Spudders made it to the state softball tournament.

Now that they are going, and they are going so far, they do not want to come home empty handed.

“We want to get there and get hardware,” Ridgefield coach Ed Bate said, referring to earning a trophy at the Class 1A state tournament in Spokane.

Ridgefield used to be a staple of the state tournament, advancing to the sweet 16 six seasons in a row from 1999 to 2004 — with the Spudders winning the Class 2A championship in 2004. The Spudders made it back to state in 2006, but have been absent ever since.

Not anymore.

Now a Class 1A program, Ridgefield advanced to state with a 5-2 win over Hoquiam in last week’s district tournament. Kory Ryder got the biggest hit of the game for the Spudders, while pitcher Karlee Kammer held Hoquiam to three hits.

Ridgefield will open the 1A state tournament at 10 a.m. Friday against Nooksack Valley at Franklin Park.

A win would put the Spudders in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m., also at Franklin.

All of the Spudders hope to finish the tournament at nearby Merkel Park. Class 1A teams still fighting for a trophy after Friday will shift a few miles away to Merkel Park, where the Class 4A tournament — which includes Skyview — is also being held.

“That’s what our goal is,” said Bate, Ridgefield’s coach the past four seasons.

As the former athletic director at Ridgefield, Bate recalls those strong squads from the past. But he is more interested in seeing how this present-day team will respond to the pressures of state.

“The girls are excited. There’s no one on the team now that had the experience of going to state. It’s new to them,” Bate said. “We’re just trying to make the experience the best we can for them. But keep in mind, we’re not just out for a fun trip. We want to go over there and compete.”

Ridgefield went 13-1 to win the Trico League title and will bring a 17-5 overall record to Spokane.

Bate said he expects Kammer will get the call in the pitching circle for every game at state. She was voted first-team, all-league. Erin Bate and Carly Estes also were first-team selections for the Spudders.

Bate likes his team’s chances of placing in the top four.

“We’re playing really good softball,” he said.