RIDGEFIELD – Pre-COVID, Ridgefield and Woodland carried on the best softball rivalry in Southwest Washington.
Now that games have returned, that hasn’t changed. Ridgefield edged Woodland 15-14 on Wednesday in a game with enough ups and downs, the Ridgefield High basepaths might as well have been a roller-coaster track.
Woodland won back-to-back Class 2A state championships in 2018-19, while Ridgefield placed third in 2019.
Most stars from those teams have graduated. Ridgefield ace Kaia Oliver is now pitching for Syracuse while Woodland two-time state player of the year Olivia Grey is pitching for Portland State.
But Wednesday showed that anything can still happen when the 2A Greater St. Helens League rivals take the field.
Ridgefield (5-0) opened a 7-1 lead by scoring six runs in the bottom of the third. Woodland (3-2) struck back with nine runs in the top of the fourth to lead 10-7.
The Spudders leapfrogged back ahead 14-10 with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Trailing 15-12 in the top of the seventh, Woodland scored twice and had the potential go-ahead run at the plate. But freshman pitcher Elizabeth Peery got a game-ending groundout to strand the tying run at third.
Wild indeed. And after the cancelled 2020 season, the Spudders soaked in Wednesday’s win with a healthy bit of gratitude.
“We’re definitely grateful for this season and being able to play,” Ridgefield senior Lilly Mittmann said. “With it being really weird this past year, this gives us the freedom to do what we love.”
Mittmann and Kekai Schultz, now seniors, both played on the 2019 team that dealt with the death of beloved coach Dusty Anchors just before the district tournament.
As much as Mittman and Schultz still draw on that year’s experience, there’s still a sense of starting anew after missing an entire year.
“There were some stipulations that with Kaia and all of them leaving that we might not be to that level,” Schultz said. “But I think with the new freshmen and underclassmen coming in we definitely can compete.”
Anchors’ legacy lives on through his daughter, Kelsey Anchors, who now coaches the Spudders.
“I hope that I would be making him proud,” Anchors said. “In what I tell my girls and how I coach them, I’m obviously going to be different than my dad. But they’re still getting the same kind of life lessons that he taught them.”
One of those lessons is resilience. That showed in Wednesday’s game, where Ridgefield scored 13 of its runs with two outs.
“They never quit,” Anchors said. “I try to tell them, never give up on the little things. Just because we have two outs, don’t throw in the towel thinking we’re already going back out on defense.”
Mallory Vancleave, Ridgefield’s freshman leadoff hitter, had a triple and a solo home run. Schultz went 3 for 4 with three doubles and sophomore Maizy Whitlow also homered.
Woodland also has reason for optimism. Despite having no seniors and just one junior, the Beavers showed plenty of pop at the plate.
Sophomore first baseman Jayden Roth had five RBI, including a three-run homer that bounced off the roof of the football grandstand behind the fence in right-center field.
Sophomore Emily Hughes also homered and went 4 for 5. Freshman pitcher Gabi Silveria had three hits and scored three runs.
Teams in the 2A Greater St. Helens League have 14 games on this spring’s schedule. The first six are nonleague, meaning Wednesday’s game won’t count in the league standings. League games are set to begin on Saturday.
RIDGEFIELD 15, WOODLAND 14
Woodland 001 902 2—14 15 5
Ridgefield 106 701 x—15 14 2
Pitching – Gabi Silveria 3.2 IP, 4 K, 3 BB; Leanna Russell 2.1 IP, 1 K, 0 BB. Highlights – Leanna Russell 1-4, 3B, 2 R; Coco McDonald 1-3, 2B; Emily Hughes 4-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, HR; Brezy Summers 1-4, R; Gabi Silveria 3-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB; Alyson Russell 2-4, 3 R, 2B; Jayden Roth 2-4, R, 5 RBI, HR; Avery Andrews 1-4, 2 RBI, 2B; Olivia Swanson 1-4, R.
Pitching – Madeline Smith 3.1 IP, 2 K, 4 BB; Elizabeth Peery 3.2 IP, 2K, 1 BB, W. Highlights – Mallory Vancleave 3-5 2 R, 2 RBI, HR, 3B, SB; Madison Walker 3-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB; Lillian Mittmann 2-5, 2 R, RBI; Kekai Schultz 3-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 3 2B; Madeline Smith 0-1, 2 R, SB; Maizy Whitlow 1-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR; Elizabeth Peery 1-4, R; Makayla Ferguson 1-4, 2 R; Natalie Smith 1-3.