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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Ridgefield softball season ends with lessons of love, gratitude

Coach Dusty Anchors shares appreciation for team that has carried him through terminal diagnosis

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: May 26, 2018, 8:09pm

SELAH – The joyful noise of games drifted across the softball complex that hosted the Class 2A state tournament.

In the outfield, the Ridgefield softball team was facing the gravity of real life.

Shortly after its season came to an end Saturday, Ridgefield huddled for one last time.

It could be the last time they huddle around Dusty Anchors. Before this season, the coach was diagnosed with terminal heart disease and given just months to live.

There were tears. There was laughter. There was the whole gamut of emotions that come when deeper life lessons are painted on the canvas of sports.

The lessons shared Saturday were about love. They were about gratitude.

Mostly they were about how with a team can help you, even in the most dire situations.

“I told them how they kept me going,” Anchors said. “They put a little jump in my step. I looked forward every day to coaching them, no matter how I was feeling.”

For the last 25 years, coaching softball has been Anchors’ favorite pastime. When he learned his terminal diagnosis, he was never tempted to give it up.

Ridgefield’s hopes of a state title ended Friday with a 1-0 loss in the quarterfinals to Ellensburg. The Spudders needed to win twice Saturday to reach the third-place game and win a trophy.

After a 9-1 win over Sedro-Woolley, Ridgefield’s season ended at 21-5 with 12-6 loss to defending state champions W.F. West.

During Saturday’s games, Anchors found himself in a contemplative mood. His wife and two daughters were on hand. This leg of the family’s journey would be made together.

“I caught myself throughout the day today just reflecting on 25 years of coaching softball,” he said.

Anchors hasn’t given up hope. He knows there have been instances where people have lived long beyond their “terminal” diagnosis.

“My plan is that I’m going to do my best to be back next year,” he said.

But Anchors and his players are also realistic enough to know Saturday could be the last time he stands in a third-base coach’s box or gazes from the dugout entrance while seated on an overturned plastic bucket.

“Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee anything,” Anchors said. “I think the reality of the situation for the girls kind of set in today, that this could be the last time I coach them.”

As the postgame huddle disbanded, each player approached their coach. Some gave high-fives. Most gave hugs. Nearly all had tears in their eyes.

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“We talked about the good times and the bad times, because you never know what’s going to happen next year,” junior catcher Emma Jenkins said. “We’re passionate about the game, so obviously there’s tears. But overall, I think the community is really proud of us and we’re proud of ourselves for how far we made it.”

And among that Ridgefield community, nobody is prouder of those players than their coach.

“It’s meant the world,” he said. “They’re a great group of girls.”


S-Woolley      000     100     0 — 1 6 3

Ridgefield      202     401     x – 9 10 2


Pitching – Avery Wagner 4 IP, 3 K, 0 BB; Nicole Wright 2 IP. Offensive highlights – Hannah Forst 1-4; Megan Friend 1-4, R; Avery Wagner 1-3; Riley Conn 2-2, RBI; Abigail Hannan 1-3.


Pitching – Sarah Jenkins 7 IP, 8 K, 3 BB; Offensive highlights – 2-4, 3 R, 3 SB, RBI; Mia Tomillo 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR; Emma Jenkins 2-3, R, 2 RBI, 2B; Calli Martin 1-4, R, SB; Kaia Oliver 1-3, RBI, SB; Haidyn Woodside 2-3, R.


Ridgefield      211     011     0 — 6 11 5

W.F. West      320     331     x – 12 13 1


Pitching – Kaia Oliver 4 IP, 2 K, 2 BBl Sarah Jenkins 2 IP, 2 K, 0 BB. Offensive highlights – Mia Tomillo 2-4, R; Emma Jenkins 3-4, R, 3 RBI, 2B, HR; Calli Martin 1-4, RBI, 2B; Kaia Oliver 1-4; Kekai Schultz 1-3, R, RBI, HR; Lillian Mittmann 1-4, R; Hailey Gruber 1-1, 2 R.

W.F. West

Pitching – Annika Waring 2 IP, 4 K, 0 BB; Ashley Vadala 5 IP, 5 K, 1 BB. Offensive highlights – Olivia Dean 3-3, 3 R, 4 RBI, 2 2B; Paetynn Lopez 1-4, R, 2 RBI, 2B; Ashlyn Whalen 1-4, R, RBI; Annika Waring 2-4; Ava Fugate 1-4, R; Taylor Barker 3-3, 3R, RBI; Paytton Crawford 1-2, R, RBI.