KENT — Hearts were light for the Skyview softball team as the Storm were three outs away from clinching a return trip to the Class 4A state tournament on Friday.
Then the Storm watched their star pitcher crumple to the dirt.
Maddie Milhorn left the game in the top of the seventh inning after rolling her ankle while delivering a pitcher.
But freshman Malea Figueroa came in to get the final three outs as the Storm beat Decatur of Federal Way 8-4 in the quarterfinals of the 4A bi-district tournament at the Kent Service Fields.
The win clinched a state berth for the Storm, who advanced to play Emerald Ridge of Puyallup in the semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Whether or not Skyview will have Milhorn available for that game remains to be seen.
“We really won’t know the extent (of the injury) until the morning,” Skyview coach Kim Anthony said. “At this point, we might just play it safe (and rest her Saturday). We’ll need her for state next week. And if that’s the case, we’ll just find a way to get through that tomorrow.”
The Storm turned to the depth in their lineup to beat Decatur. Kylie Lester went 3 for 4 with two runs, a home run and three RBI, and Layla Royle went 2 for 2 with a double and an RBI as the Storm scored in every inning against Decatur.
“Knowing that we have about five to six people on the bench (who can play) and we have such a deep lineup, my trust is in everybody in that lineup,” Royle said. “And I trust that anybody can come from the bench and helps us win.”
Even when it comes as a bit of surprise.
Earlier Friday against Graham-Kapowsin, Milhorn struck out 13 and Addy Harmier went 2 for 3 with an RBI as the Storm beat the Eagles 5-2.
To start the second game, Anthony turned to Figueroa to start the game pitching, hoping to give Milhorn a rest.
“We were hoping not to throw Maddie the whole first game,” Anthony said. “So I thought, well, let’s see how far we can go with Malea. But I also told her it would be a quick pull. We didn’t want to get too far behind early.”
That pull came after just four batters when Decatur scored a run and had two runners on with one out in the first. Milhorn came into the game and ended the rally at just one run.
Then the Skyview offense went to work.
Lester came around score on an error after opening the bottom of the first with a single.
In the second, a double by Lainey Phillips at the bottom of the lineup and another from Lester at the top gave Skyview a 3-1 lead.
Jenna Stockton squeezed home a run in the third, then Lester delivered the big blow in the fourth, hitting a towering fly ball to left that just got over the fence in left.
“I wasn’t sure (if it was a home run) because it was weird,” Lester said. “I stopped as I rounded (first) base. I was like ‘Did it even go over?’ I had no idea until (the umpire) went like this (signaled a home run).
“Yeah, it was my first one, too.”
Figueroa even made contributions in the field. After moving to right field, she came up with a diving catch along the right field line in the fourth.
“That was amazing,” Anthony said. “Usually, you’re like ‘don’t dive for a ball down the line!’ And then she caught it, and I was ‘good job!’ ”
Royle’s RBI double in the sixth put Skyview up 8-3 heading to the seventh. Then Milhorn exited while facing the first batter of the inning.
So Anthony turned back to her freshman.
“She was a swing player, so she played a lot of JV,” Anthony said of Figueroa. “I think she had pitched six innings of varsity before today.”
Decatur strung together a couple of hits, leading to a run, before Figueroa ended the game with a strikeout, jumping in the air in celebration.
“She’s a quiet kid, so just to see her all fired up like that, that was fun,” Anthony said.
After the game, there was an encouraging sign for the Storm. Milhorn was walking around on her sore ankle, which was wrapped in ice, as she joked with teammates during the post-game celebration.
“I felt like we really stepped up,” Royle said. “We realized that we have to win this. We want to go to state. This is our goal. We want to win state this year. And we need to just get the bats going, keep the (defense) up and just win the game. And that’s what we did. And it feels great to go back (to state).”
On the side of the bracket, Battle Ground still has some work to do to get back to state.
Battle Ground and Union both lost first-round games Friday – the Tigers fell 7-2 to Rogers of Puyallup and Union lost 1-0 to Kentwood.
That put the 4A GSHL rivals together in an elimination game in the afternoon, which Battle Ground won 9-0.
Rylee Rehbein threw a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. She was also 3 for 5, and Zoey Hughes hit a three-run home run.
Battle Ground faces Decatur at 10 a.m. Saturday in a loser-out game. If the Tigers win that game, they will get two more chances to get a win that will send them to state.