CHEHALIS — Having a short-term memory is an important trait for a team trying to move on from a loss.
The Ridgefield softball team calls it a “goldfish mentality.”
Moments after suffering their first loss of the season in Thursday’s 2A district tournament against W.F. West, the Spudders were talking about getting it out of their minds, with a winner-to-state game against R.A. Long less than 24 hours away at Recreation Park.
“You forget about it,” Ridgefield sophomore Mallory Vancleave said. “Our coaches were like, ‘Goldfish mentality. (Friday) you gotta forget about it and come out and play the game you know how to play.’ Really, that’s what we did.”
The feeling was unfamiliar for a squad that seemingly always had an answer for whatever opponents threw at them. But even as nerves ran high leading up to Friday’s game, the Spudders were undeterred.
Thanks to a shutdown performance from the Ridgefield defense and a late flurry of offense, Ridgefield sealed a 7-0 win over R.A. Long to reach the 2A state tournament, which will be held May 27-28 at Selah.
“You just gotta work for it, you know?” sophomore pitcher Elizabeth Peery said. “We came back from that loss yesterday and now we’re battling back and going to state. It feels good.”
While Peery pitched a complete-game shutout with five strikeouts, one walk and three hits allowed, the Lumberjills found few openings against a stingy Spudders defense, and were short-lived when they did.
Trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning, R.A. Long’s Ava Rodman reached first on a fielding error and Lily Mattison earned a walk with no outs.
The next at-bat, a bunt attempt popped up in front of Ridgefield catcher Makayla Ferguson, and the junior dove to make the grab while holding runners at first and second base. Next, Madison Walker stretched out to snag a line drive down the third base line. Peery closed out the inning by catching a straight-shot line drive from the mound, stranding two R.A. Long runners.
That led into the top of the sixth, when Ferguson hit a three-run home run well beyond the left field fence and was greeted at home plate by her Spudders teammates, suddenly owning a 5-0 lead.
“I feel like a lot of it has to do with feeding off each other’s confidence,” said Ferguson, who also homered on the same field Thursday against W.F. West. “Making each other confident, supporting each other, being happy and celebrating like that. A lot of our connection and team comes from making that overarching confidence.”
Vancleave, who went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI, batted in another insurance run in the seventh and Kaylen Wingerd added a sacrifice bunt to score Vancleave.
“(If) we use our energy, we can get anywhere,” Vancleave said. “We just take that energy into the next inning and keep going from it. Makayla’s home run, that put us up.”
Coming into the 2021 season, Ridgefield was looked at as a young team with one senior, Alissa Wallaway, and four players in each of its junior, sophomore and freshman classes.
The Spudders had the experience of last year’s district tournament, when they finished third. But they hadn’t yet felt the pressure of a winner-to-state, loser-out game until Friday.
After Thursday’s loss, having a short memory served them well. In the long run, however, these two days and next week’s state tournament, which will be a first for the entire roster, are valuable moments to learn from.
In its last state appearance, Ridgefield took third place in 2019 before the following two years were canceled during the pandemic.
“This will be our first experience at state with an entire team and everyone is excited to go,” Ferguson said. “It was our goal from day one and it’s our goal going forward to win.”
RIDGEFIELD 7, R.A. LONG 0
Ridgefield 010 013 2—7 9 2
R.A. Long 000 000 0—0 3 1
Pitching — Elizabeth Peery 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 K, 1 BB; Highlights — Mallory Vancleave 3-4, R, 2 RBI, 3B; Maizy Whitlow 1-3; Elizabeth Peery 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B; Makayla Ferguson 1-3, R, 3 RBI, HR; Madeline Smith 1-2, R; Charlie Harris 1-3, R.
Pitching — Jadyn Terry 7 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 8 K, 2 BB; Highlights — Gracie Byrnes 1-3; Jadyn Terry 2-3.