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3A Bi-district Softball: Blunt blasts Prairie back into state tournament

She hits tiebreaking two-run homer in 6-4 quarterfinal win over River Ridge

By Micah Rice, Columbian Sports Editor
Published: May 16, 2024, 9:01pm
5 Photos
Prairie's Rylee Wall delivers a pitch during a District 3/4 quarterfinal softball game against River Ridge on Thursday, May 16, 2024 at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
Prairie's Rylee Wall delivers a pitch during a District 3/4 quarterfinal softball game against River Ridge on Thursday, May 16, 2024 at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. (Micah Rice/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

LACEY – A one-year absence from the Class 3A state softball tournament was long enough for Payton Blunt and her Prairie teammates.

Blunt blasted a tiebreaking two-run home run in the sixth inning as Prairie beat River Ridge 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the District 3/4 tournament Thursday.

That clinched a state berth at the same Regional Athletic Complex where the Falcons fell short last year.

For a program that has now reached state eight times since 2013, returning to state was a major goal this season for the 3A Greater St. Helens League champions.

“We wanted to definitely go since we came up short last year,” Blunt said. “We were really striving to do it today rather than worry about Saturday to make it to state.”

Prairie (14-8) can now set it sights on a bi-district championship, starting Saturday with a semifinal clash against Central Kitsap.

After a 25-0 first-round win over Spanaway Lake, No. 4 seed Prairie got a tough test from No. 12 River Ridge of Lacey. The Hawks tied the game 4-4 on Lahtecia Garduno Hatch’s two-run double with two outs in the top of the sixth.

But Prairie wasn’t rattled. Makenzie Moore led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, then reached second on Rylee Wall’s sacrifice bunt.

That brought Blunt to the plate.

“Payton Blunt is somebody I want at the plate in that situation,” Prairie coach Robyn Mask said. “She’s been doing that for us all year consistently, getting hits when we need it. I think it’s awesome that she did that. It’s so Payton-like.”

Though Blunt had three singles in Thursday’s first game and was 1 for 3 when she came up in the sixth, she hadn’t hit the ball as hard as she’d hoped.

“I was looking for something I could barrel up,” Blunt said. “I had struggled earlier in the day for barreling up. I took a strike that was a little outside first. I was a little mad about that so the second one I knew I was hitting.”

Wall retired River Ridge in order in the top of the seventh to cap a day that required plenty of poise in the pitcher’s circle. She stranded 10 runners on base and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

“She’s a calm competitor,” Mask said of Wall. “She gets after it. Even if she’s not getting the calls, she gave it her all. She did her thing and did enough for us to win today. I am so proud of her.”

Carlie Palmer went 2 for 4 and got Prairie on the board with a solo home run in the second inning. She also stole a run in the fifth, scoring from third amid confusion after the Hawks thought they turned an inning-ending double play, but the runner at first was called safe.

“Our girls are pumped and they deserve it,” Mask said. “They fought so hard today and they’ve been fighting hard for a long time.”

PRAIRIE 25, SPANAWAY LAKE 0 – Carlie Palmer’s two-run homer highlighted a 16-run third inning as the Falcons cruised to a first-round win.

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Payton Miller also homered, Makenzie Moore went 4 for 4 with two doubles and Payton Blunt went 3 for 4 with five RBI.

CENTRAL KITSAP 14, HERITAGE 3 – The Timberwolves missed a chance to wrap up their third consecutive state berth, falling in the quarterfinals.

Heritage (10-12) must win a loser-out game against Silas on Saturday morning to reach another winner-to-state game.

Central Kitsap (8-14) knocked off top-seeded Timberline in the first round. The Cougars scored five runs in the second inning and seven in the fourth.

Kaliann Newberry went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBI for Heritage.

HERITAGE 12, STADIUM 6 – Hailey Dowell went 3 for 4 with two doubles as the Timberwolves earned a first-round win.

Dowell drove in three runs including a two-run double in a four-run fifth inning, which put Heritage ahead 8-2.

Jaila Ellis had 13 strikeouts and allowed five hits over six innings.

BONNEY LAKE 9, KELSO 8 – The No. 15 seed Lassies’ late rally fell short in a first-round loss to the No. 2 seed Hornets.

Karsyn Hall’s triple drove in Hannah Currence and pulled Kelso within 9-8 with two outs in the seventh. That came after Hailey Barnes scored on an error.

Kelso trailed 8-4 entering the sixth inning but scored two runs on Brooke Hefley’s second double of the game.

Hefley went 3 for 4 with two runs and two RBI. Kyleigh Day hit a two-run home run in the first inning.

KELSO 30, THOMAS JEFFERSON 0 – The Lassies scored 20 runs in the first inning in a loser-out game.

Peyton Champagne, Karsyn Hall, Kyleigh Day and Aubree Freeman all had three hits as Kelso pounded 32 base hits in the five-inning game.