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Jan. 24, 2021

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Woodland dances its way to 2A state softball championship

Grey combines for 34 strikeouts in wins over Ellensburg, W.F. West

By , Columbian Sports Editor
Published:
2 Photos
The Woodland softball team swarms around coach Tom Christensen after winning the Class 2A state softball championship Saturday in Selah.
The Woodland softball team swarms around coach Tom Christensen after winning the Class 2A state softball championship Saturday in Selah. (Micah Rice/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

SELAH – The festive rhythm of Latin music coursed through the Woodland softball team’s pregame warmups. Every so often, a player would do a little shimmy.

Woodland is still dancing. But now, it’s the dance of a champion.

Woodland won its second softball state championship in school history Saturday. The Beavers captured the Class 2A crown by beating Ellensburg 5-1 after knocking off defending champion W.F. West 10-1 in the morning’s semifinal.

“We worked so hard for this all season,” said third baseman Kelly Sweyer. “Just putting in the effort, whether it’s the little things or the big things, it all just came together.”

If there was state tournament pressure, Woodland didn’t show it. A team with just two seniors hit nine home runs over four games after hitting 20 previously this season.

If there was state tournament pressure, pitcher Olivia Grey thrived on it. The Portland State-bound junior had 19 strikeouts in the championship game after having 15 in the semifinals. In 28 innings, the Grey struck out 69 batters and allowed just five earned runs.

If there was state tournament pressure, Woodland’s season-long ritual of Latin warmup music kept it at bay.

“It’s a big thing for us to play the game loose,” Grey said.

Woodland’s party kicked into gear in the fourth inning against W.F. West, which beat the Beavers in extra innings of the district semifinal last week.

With the game scoreless, Woodland loaded the bases with no outs. Sophomore Payten Foster then took a healthy swing at a high fastball with the count 0-2.

On second base, Sweyer had the perfect view.

“It just went right over my head,” she said. “It was so awesome.”

A strong wind was blowing out to center field, but Foster’s blast didn’t need any help. It landed well beyond the fence 200 feet away.

In an instant, a game that looked to be a close pitcher’s duel became a Woodland rout. The Beavers blasted two more home runs in the fifth inning. Chloe Eddy and Carleigh Risley each hit two-run shots to give Woodland an 8-0 lead.

“We were joking around today, Liv’s pitching is so amazing, it’s time for us to produce,” Sweyer said.

Already pitching aggressively, that run support encouraged Grey to go right after hitters.

It was if Grey said here’s my fastball, try to hit it.

Most couldn’t.

“From a pitcher’s mentality, that’s huge to get that kind of support,” Grey said. “You feel that if you give up a hit or if there’s an error, you know it won’t cost you the game.”

The momentum carried through the championship game. Chloe Eddy gave Woodland a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a bloop single that drove in Lila Russell.

Ellensburg (23-3) scored a run in the bottom of the first, but Woodland quickly regained the lead on Russell’s two-out single that drove in Foster.

Ellensburg put two runners on base in the third and fourth innings, but both times Grey escaped trouble with strikeouts.

Woodland added an insurance run in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. When the final out was made, players and coaches rushed toward the pitcher’s circle.

What took place there wasn’t a samba, more like a slam dance.

A team that was 6-15 last year, albeit without Grey, had won its first state title since 2010 with a 25-3 record.

“When the pressure was on, we excelled,” coach Tom Christensen said. “A lot of it came down to energy. It just took one or two hits and the energy started to snowball in a good way.”

WOODLAND 10, W.F. WEST 1

Woodland      000     441     1 — 10 11 1

W.F. West      000     001     0 – 1 5 3

Woodland

Pitching – Olivia Grey 7 IP, 15 K, 1 BB. Offensive highlights – Lila Russell 1-5, R, RBI; Justice Holcomb 1-4, R, 2 RBI; Chloe Eddy 2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR; Kelly Sweyer 3-4, 2 R, RBI, 2B; Payten Foster 1-4, R, 4 RBI, Grand Slam; Carleigh Risley 1-3, R, 2 RBI, HR; Maddi Bunger 1-4, R; Mabel Warndahl 1-2.

WF West

Pitching – Ashley Vadala 4.2 IP, 2 K; Annika Waring 2.1 IP, 1 K, 2 BB. Offensive highlights – Ashlyn Whalen 2-3, R, 2B; Annika Waring 3-3, RBI, 2B.

WOODLAND 5, ELLENSBURG 1

Woodland      110     011     1 — 5 12 0

Ellensburg    100     000     0 – 1 0 0

Woodland

Pitching – Olivia Grey 7 IP, 19 K, 2 BB. Offensive highlights – Lila Russell 3-4, 2 R, RBI, SB; Justice Holcomb 1-2; Chloe Eddy 2-4, RBI; Kelly Sweyer 1-4; Kaily Christensen 1-4, R; Payten Foster 2-3, R, RBI; Maddi Bunger 1-4, RBI.

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