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2A district softball: Ridgefield suffers season-ending 8-0 defeat to Rochester

Spudders seniors come up short of return to 2A state tournament; Mark Morris falls to Tumwater 14-1

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 17, 2024, 11:04pm
10 Photos
Ridgefield coach Kelsey Anchors talks to the team after calling for time in the first inning of a Class 2A District 4 tournament softball game against Rochester on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Chehails.
Ridgefield coach Kelsey Anchors talks to the team after calling for time in the first inning of a Class 2A District 4 tournament softball game against Rochester on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Chehails. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

CHEHALIS — This senior class of Ridgefield softball players will always be one coach Kelsey Anchors fondly.

Anchors took over Ridgefield’s program in late 2019, but didn’t coach her first game until 2021 because of the pandemic. That 2021 spring, in walked a group of freshmen who started and ended their high school careers playing for Anchors and assistant coach Greg Ferguson while continuing to build a strong tradition in the program.

Elizabeth Peery and Mallory Vancleave made varsity as freshmen. Kaylen Wingerd swung between JV and varsity. Emma Harvey and Kate Moreland played JV before joining the varsity squad in the coming years.

On Friday, the five of them passed the torch on to the next group. Ridgefield suffered an 8-0, season-ending defeat to Rochester at the Class 2A District 4 tournament, falling one game short of the 2A state tournament.

After a post-game talk on the field at Recreation Park filled with teary eyes and hugs, Anchors began to reflect on the impact those seniors made on the Spudders’ program, and by extension, their coach.

“This is probably going to be my hardest senior (class) to say goodbye to,” Anchors said. “This is my fifth season here and they’ve been with me all four years. Just the hard work they put in, not only during season, but out of season. … They’re just good people, and that’s all I can ask for. Yeah, we came up short today. But I just want them to go live life, live life to the fullest and take things that they learned in this crazy sport of softball, adapt and put it into their normal lives outside of the sport.”

On the field, the group picked up right where the Spudders left off prior to 2020. They earned at least a share of three consecutive 2A Greater St. Helens League titles, including this season, reached state in 2022, then won the district championship and took second at state in 2023 — the program’s best finish in two decades.

Off the field moments, however, are what the seniors will remember most.

“Just the random moments with the team, where we all just have fun and we’re just joking,” Peery said.

“I’m gonna miss these girls more than anything about this season,” Wingerd added. “It’s such a good team and I wouldn’t want to be out here with anyone else.”

When Anchors was hired at Ridgefield, following her late father, Dusty Anchors, as the Spudders’ coach, Ridgefield players wanted to know more about their new coach. So, according to Vancleave, a Fresno State signee, they did some research.

“When Kelsey came in, we all looked her up on Instagram to see who was this coach that’s coming in,” Vancleave said with a laugh. “We were like, ‘Oh shoot, she (played at) Oklahoma State.’ We’ve all looked up to her these four years, she’s a mentor to us, she’s always there for us, she’s a great coach. I’m gonna miss the coaches as well as the girls.”

As freshmen in that 2020-21 school year, they came into the program eager to walk in the footsteps of players they watched growing up. When they went to open gyms in the offseason, then began practicing that spring, it was a fresh start for them alongside Anchors.

“Taking that first step on our field, with all the people that I’ve looked up to my entire life, it was a magical moment that no one can describe,” said Peery, who plans to attend Washington and join the school’s rowing team. “You know you’re going to start somewhere. It’s nice to be able to build off of great reputations.”

The future of Ridgefield’s team also has the privilege of building from a solid foundation as they move on from a wild two days at the district tournament.

After the Spudders (19-5) split their first two games Thursday, they faced a red-hot Rochester team that clawed its way from the 2A district pigtail game Tuesday to a state berth three days later.

The Warriors (13-13) were the aggressors early with six runs across the first two innings, while Rochester starting pitcher Layna Demers held a strong Ridgefield lineup to just four hits in a complete-game shutout.

“The stars just didn’t align for us,” Anchors said. “I think we came into this game confident and our normal, relaxed selves. Unfortunately, I think we were just a little too eager at the plate. I tell them to be aggressive — instead of watching a ton of pitches, be aggressive — but I think we were overly-agressive in what we were swinging at. … If we had a couple of those hits fall into our favor, I think it would’ve swung a different way.”

Of Ridgefield’s four hits, three came from underclassmen who are primed for bigger roles next season — sophomore Tava Whitlow, as well as freshmen Bailey Wolski and Isabelle Walker.

While the Spudders are saying goodbye to a group who bridged an important era in the program, the seniors depart knowing the future is bright.

“Just coming in and doing our best to build this program, and I think it’s going to continue to be a good program,” Wingerd said.

TUMWATER 14, MARK MORRIS 1 — Thunderbirds ace pitcher Ella Ferguson put on a clinic from the circle, holding the Monarchs to one hit over five innings with 12 strikeouts and three walks in a winner-to-state, loser-out game.

The Monarchs’ lone hit came from a Megan Fugleberg solo home run in the first inning to trim Tumwater’s lead to 3-1. From there, the Thunderbirds rolled.

Jaime Haase went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI, while Sarah Stevens and Marissa LaPraim also homered as Tumwater (14-4) clinched a 2A state berth.

Mark Morris (18-5), aiming for its first state berth since 1995, earned the top seed from the 2A GSHL after defeating Ridgefield in a tiebreaker Monday. But the 2A Evergreen Conference dominated the tournament, as all four EvCo teams, district champion W.F. West, Aberdeen, Tumwater and Rochester earned state berths.

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