KELSO — The Kelso Hilanders would score. A lot.
The Prairie Falcons always had an answer. Always.
The Falcons scored in every inning Friday, including two in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Kelso 10-9 to win the Class 3A District 4 softball championship.
Prairie will head to next week’s bi-district tournament in Tacoma — to try to earn a berth to state — as the No. 1 seed from Southwest Washington.
Prairie, the top seed, was the home team, even on Kelso’s field. The Falcons rather enjoyed that last at-bat.
Nicole O’Haver stepped to the plate with the Falcons trailing 9-8. But a wild pitch allowed Alexis Chafton to score the tying run.
“A little bit of relief came over me,” O’Haver said after the wild pitch. “I knew if I did fail, we’d go to extra innings. But if I succeeded, the game was over.”
O’Haver, a speedster, saw where she wanted to hit the ball.
“Their third base closed in on me. If I hit a high chopper over her head, the game’s over.”
That’s what happened, and yep, the game was over as Bailee Blechschmidt raced home from third base to end the crazy contest.
Kelso led 5-4 after the third inning, 7-5 after the fourth, 8-6 after the fifth, then 9-8 after the sixth.
The Hilanders also loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with no outs. In a game in which the teams combined for 26 hits and eight errors, it was a Prairie defensive play that got the Falcons out of the jam with no runs across the plate.
After a pop-out, shortstop Taylor Bussey moved to her right to snatch a line drive that was heading to left field. She then scrambled to touch third base, beating the Kelso runner back to the bag for the double play.
One of two seniors on the team, Bussey said this season has been special.
“Amazing. Honestly, going into the year, with such a young team, I didn’t expect to go as far,” Bussey said. “These girls have worked so hard. They put their hearts into every game they play. I’m really proud of them.”
Kelso nearly ended the game with a defensive gem of its own.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Prairie’s Sam Workman smashed a shot toward third. Kelso’s Nariah Morgan caught the liner, but Chafton dove back just in time to avoid the double play.
“I had to get back to the base, the safe spot,” she said. “I felt the heat on me.”
Then she remembered what her coach said. If there’s a wild pitch, she was going. Chafton easily beat the throw back to the pitcher to tie the game.
A minute or so later, O’Haver won it for the Falcons.
O’Haver, who finished with three hits, was one of many Prairie players to have big moments in this game.
Freshman Bridget Guiney hit a home run in her first at-bat — her first at-bat as a varsity player. She was called up from the JV team and played her first game with the varsity in the district title game.
Bussey also blasted a home run and ended up driving in three runs.
Jamie Phares had a run-scoring triple and a double.
Irene McGuire got the one-out hit to start the winning rally in the seventh. The pitcher gave way to Chafton, her courtesy runner, who would score the tying run.
“I’m proud of their heart and their teamwork,” Prairie coach Dawn Rowe said.
PRAIRIE 10, KELSO 9
Kelso 014 211 0–9 14 4
Prairie 121 112 2–10 12 4
Pitching — Carly Sims 4 IP, Julie Breidt 21/3 IP, loss, 0 ER; Macy Ruth 1/3 IP. Highlights — Kailey Mackin 0-3, 2 RBI; Lindsey Johnson 1-5, 2B, R; Ruth 2-4, RBI; Sierra Richards 2-4, 3 R; Kady Bruce 2-4, 2B, 3 R, RBI; Bailey Ellis 1-4, R, RBI; Sims 1-2; Nariah Morgan 3-4, RBI; Jessica Baker 2-4, 2B, RBI.
Pitching — Irene McGuire 7 IP, win, 3 Ks. Highlights — Jamie Phares 2-3, 3B, 2B, 2 R, RBI; Sarah Landstrom 1-3, RBI; Bridget Guiney 1-3, HR, RBI; Nicole O’Haver 3-5, R, GWRBI; Taylor Bussey 1-3, HR, 3 RBI; Holly Kersanty 2-4, 2B, R; Bailee Blechscmidt 0-2, RBI, R; Sam Workman 1-2, R; McGuire 1-4.