CHEHALIS — When someone provides the initial spark, the rest of the Ridgefield softball team can catch fire in a hurry.
From the leadoff to the ninth batter, the Spudders boast a potent order that can hang with the best of them. Yet against Tumwater ace pitcher Ella Ferguson and the Thunderbirds on Thursday in the Class 2A District 4 tournament semifinals, the Spudders were stuck in neutral.
Then, trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, came the spark Ridgefield needed to get going.
Makayla Ferguson started the frame with a leadoff double, which brought up Madeline Smith for an RBI single to bring the Spudders within one run. When the next batter, Charlie Harris, slashed a double into left field, the Spudders’ energy grew even more.
“The hype that we have in our dugout really gets your adrenaline going,” Smith said, “so we’re like, ‘OK, we got this in box. They have our back.’ It just gets stronger, I feel like.”
After leadoff batter Mallory Vancleave knocked in the tying run on a fielder’s choice, Kaylen Wingerd’s RBI base hit provided Ridgefield its first lead, 4-3, and a euphoric feeling for the whole team. Ridgefield and pitcher Elizabeth Peery finished off Tumwater with three final outs in the seventh, sending the Spudders to Friday’s district championship game.
“In a time like this, we come together as a team,” Wingerd said. “Our energy was just so up and it just pushed us to be the best team we can play (as). That’s Spudder softball.”
Ridgefield clinched a berth in next week’s 2A state tournament with wins over Tumwater and earlier in the day, a 7-5 decision over W.F. West. The Spudders will face Centralia in the district championship Friday at Recreation Park.
On the heels of an undefeated 2A Greater St. Helens League championship, and now, two wins in the district tournament, Ridgefield head coach Kelsey Anchors believe the Spudders are peaking at the right time.
“When I walked out there to the post-game meeting, I was like, ‘there was never a doubt,’” Anchors said. “There should never be a doubt with these guys. It’s the next batter up. One through nine, we have a strong lineup. … Just knowing that one base hit is gonna light a fire for the next girl, it gets them going. I believe in them, they believe in themselves and it shows.”
In two high stakes, pressure-filled games against the likes of W.F. West and Tumwater, the Spudders had to earn every bit of that state berth.
Ridgefield watched a 5-0 lead to W.F. West evaporate in a sixth inning that included home runs from Avalon Myers and Saige Brindle. The latter, a three-run homer, tied the game at 5-5.
The Spudders responded in the bottom half of the inning with a Wingerd sacrifice fly to score Harris followed by a Madison Walker RBI for a 7-5 lead that stood up.
“We have so much grit,” Smith said, “and we want it so bad.”
In the semifinals against the defending 2A state champion Thunderbirds, the Spudders faced an early 3-0 hole when Tumwater’s Megan Paull launched a three-run homer in the top of the first inning.
That, combined with a leadoff walk in the third prompted Ridgefield to call on Peery, who pitched five innings earlier against W.F. West, to return to the circle. Peery struck out the first batter she faced, and ultimately tossed five scoreless innings with four strikeouts, two hits allowed and no walks.
Regardless of Friday’s result in the district championship, the Spudders know they will be returning to the 2A state tournament next week in Selah, where they went 1-2 and didn’t place last season. For a group that returned nearly its entire roster, now a year older and wiser, the Spudders are looking forward to the challenge in front of them.
“We worked really hard this year to be like, ‘OK, it’s not just (about) getting to districts; we need to push ourselves even harder to get past this, so we know what to expect for state,’” Smith said.
“I think last year prepared us for this,” Wingerd added. “That was our first time going to state together and now it’s prepared us to do even better this year.”
RIDGEFIELD 7, W.F. WEST 5
WF West 000 005 0—5 9 3
Ridgefield 000 142 x—7 8 0
Pitching — Elizabeth Peery 5 IP, 5 R, 9 H, 1 K, 2 BB; Kaylen Wingerd 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 K, 2 BB; Highlights — Mallory Vancleave 2-3, 1 R; Wingerd RBI; Madison Walker 2-3, 2 R; Maizy Whitlow 2-2, HR, 3 RBI, 1 R; Peery 1-3; Madeline Smith RBI; Charlie Harris 1 R; Tava Whitlow 1-2, 2 R.
RIDGEFIELD 4, TUMWATER 3
Tumwater 300 000 0—3 6 1
Ridgefield 000 103 x—4 10 0
Pitching — Kaylen Wingerd 2 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 0 K, 3 BB; Elizabeth Peery 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 4 K, 0 BB; Highlights — Mallory Vancleave 1-3, RBI, SB; Wingerd 2-4, RBI, SB; Madison Walker 1-4; Maizy Whitlow 1-4; Makayla Ferguson 1-2, 2B, 1 R; Madeline Smith 3-3, 2 RBI, 1 R; Charlie Harris 1-3, 2B, 1 R.
Though Woodland never led, the Beavers rallied for seven runs in the fourth to force an 8-8 tie. The frame started with RBI singles from Jolie Oathes and Emily Hughes, before Silveria added a two-run double to get Woodland within 8-6. Ainsleigh Utter added an RBI and Alyson Russell knocked through the tying run on a base hit.
Following another multi-run deficit, Woodland got within 14-11 in the fifth before W.F. West plated 11 runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Columbia River, which suffered losses against Aberdeen (1-0) and R.A. Long (9-0), hung with the 2A Evergreen Conference champion Bobcats thanks to shutdown defense and pitching from freshman Ruby Lew, who held Aberdeen without a hit for three innings.
Aberdeen’s Alyssa Yakovich broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the fourth inning that proved to be the winning run. The Bobcats leaned on pitcher Lilly Gray to finish off the complete-game shutout.
Against 2A GSHL foe R.A. Long, the Lumberjills scored six runs across the first two innings with a pair of RBI from Jadyn Terry and Ava Rodman, plus one apiece from Lilly Mattison and Mallian Byrnes.