KELSO — The Prairie softball team has gone from third place to the No. 1 seed.
The Falcons had to rally twice to force extra innings Friday, then scored seven runs in the top of the 10th to beat Columbia River 12-6 in the Class 3A District 4 championship game.
Prairie will head to next week's bi-district tournament as the No. 1 seed from Southwest Washington. Columbia River is No. 2 and Mountain View is No. 3. All three will be trying to earn a trip to the state tournament.
The Falcons scored three runs to take an 8-5 lead, then Irene McGuire left no doubt with a grand slam.
"We just kept battling. It's amazing," McGuire said. "We're all fighters, you know."
This was Prairie's third battle in two days. The Falcons, who tied for third place in the 3A Greater St. Helens League, survived an elimination game to open the tournament Thursday, topping Kelso in extra innings. Then Prairie beat No. 2 Mountain View by a run in the semifinals that evening.
Next was the title game against 3A GSHL champion Columbia River on Friday.
The Chieftains scored a run in the second and third innings, and Prairie was scoreless through five.
The Falcons knew they were still in it, though.
"Staying together as a family. Cheering. Everyone on the fence in the dugout and just staying loud," Prairie's Jamie Phares said. "I had confidence in every single one. I knew we could do it."
Holly Kersanty and Sam Workman had run-scoring singles in the top of the sixth to tie the game.
The Chieftains regained the lead in the bottom of the frame, though, when Jayden Schofield hit a two-out run-scoring single.
Phares, who went 4 for 6 with three doubles, singled to start the seventh, then came home on a Bridget Guiney base hit to tie it.
Workman, Guiney, and McGuire each had two hits for the Falcons.
Teaghan Cowles, Maggie Harshaw, and Schofield each had two hits and drove in a run for River.
Both teams scored a run in the eighth and ninth innings, setting up Prairie's outburst in the 10th.
Nicole O'Haver, Phares, and Guiney each drove in runs to make it 8-5. Then came McGuire's blast.
"It almost felt like nothing," McGuire said. "When you hit it, when you make contact like that … you know it's a good hit when you can't even feel it."
The Falcons all got to feel the district championship trophy. Prairie coach Ari Van Horn said it became clear to her this week in practice that this team could do something special. She said the Falcons are playing more for each other than for any individual glory.
Phares said they appreciate what took place the last two days. However, this is not the final destination. Prairie played in the state title game last year.
"I have a feeling we're going to put this behind us and focus on bi-district," she said.
True, but no matter what happens the rest of the season, the Falcons will have special memories from three games in two days in Kelso.