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3A state softball: Heritage goes ‘all gas, no brakes’ in 17-6 opening-round win over Mead

Timberwolves advance to state round of 16 to face No. 2 seed Ballard

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 23, 2024, 7:35pm
9 Photos
Heritage's Jaila Ellis connects on a pitch for an RBI base hit during a Class 3A state softball opening round game against Mead on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
Heritage's Jaila Ellis connects on a pitch for an RBI base hit during a Class 3A state softball opening round game against Mead on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

LACEY — As the team wraps up each huddle in between innings, the Heritage Timberwolves often repeat one of their tried-and-true mottos, “all gas, no brakes.”

The phrase served as an apt description for the Timberwolves’ play Thursday in the opening round of the Class 3A state softball tournament.

“Just not letting up, at all,” Heritage freshman Kylie Thomas explained. “Don’t let the other team get a chance.”

No. 18 seed Heritage went on the attack early against N0. 15 Mead with 13 runs across the first three innings and never let off the pedal during a 17-6 win in five innings.

The Timberwolves racked up 14 hits while capitalizing on five Mead errors and got contributions throughout their lineup. Jaila Ellis had five RBI on three hits, Kaliann Newberry added three hits, including an RBI double, and Thomas hit a two-run home run in the second inning — the first over-the-fence homer of the freshman’s high school career.

With the win, Heritage earned a spot in the state round of 16 and will face No. 2 Ballard at 9 a.m. Friday. The result marks the second straight season Heritage has advanced from the win-or-go-home opening round into day two of state. Plus, after playing two loser-out games at last week’s 3A bi-district tournament, the Timberwolves are well accustomed to being in that position.

“I think we really just rally as a team together,” said Newberry, a senior. “We find a reason to keep playing one more out, one more inning. We just play as a team really well when we’re in these loser-out situations.”

If that wasn’t motivation enough, Heritage got a little extra from Mead’s gamesmanship when the Panthers used the whole field for a portion of pregame warmups and Timberwolves players said they took it as a slight.

Heritage responded by putting up two quick runs in the first inning courtesy of back-to-back RBI from Ellis and Hailey Dowell.

After Mead scored on an error in the bottom half, Heritage countered back with a seven-run second inning. Makiah Iven and Taylor Frost scored on two Mead errors, Ellis drove in two more runs on a base hit, then scored on a Dowell sacrifice fly and Thomas provided the exclamation point with a two-run blast to center field, putting the Timberwolves ahead 9-1.

“(We wanted to) beat them, because they were mean at the beginning,” Ellis said.

“So, we just wanted to pretty much give them nothing to talk about,” Newberry added.

With the Timberwolves holding a sizable lead, Ellis exited after two innings in the pitcher’s circle for Veronica Ayala, but was called back in to action in the bottom of the fourth after Mead’s Destinie Startin hit a two-run homer and the Panthers loaded the bases with one out.

After Hope Murdock added an RBI single to cut Heritage’s lead to 13-4, the Timberwolves promptly shut down the rally. Ellis fielded a ground ball from the circle, flipped the ball to Thomas at home plate for one out before the catcher threw to Kylie Stroup at first base for a 1-2-3 double play.

“I wasn’t really to expecting to go back in because we were up,” Ellis said. “It was fine going back in because I was pitching good.”

Ellis, who was recently named the 3A Greater St. Helens League player of the year, held Mead to one hit over 3 2/3 innings and gave up zero earned runs. Beyond the box score, the sophomore provided a calming presence in the circle when the Timberwolves needed it most.

“It’s definitely huge, like, if Jaila’s calm, we’re calm, then rest of the team knows we’re good (and) it’s OK,” Newberry said. “The second something goes off it’s like, ‘Oh no,’ so we just gotta keep her calm during the game.”

Heritage is playing in its third straight 3A tournament, which marks the longest streak in program history. Whether it’s their first time playing at state or the last time as seniors, Timberwolves players have earned at least two more games together, if not more, on Friday.

“It means a lot for me, it’s my first year doing this, I’m really excited,” Thomas said. “(We’re) really win hungry.”

“It’s my last year, I want to go out with a bang. I just want to win and take it all,” Newberry said. “We have the ability, we have all the potential in the world, so I just want to push through and do it.”

SEATTLE PREP 10, KELSO 3 — The Panthers jumped out to a 9-0 lead through three innings and the margin was too much for the Lassies to overcome in a season-ending defeat.

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Seattle Prep starting pitcher Erica Daher held Kelso without a hit until the fifth inning when Skylar Richie hit a one-out single, then scored on a Karmynn Petrisor RBI single.

Kelso added two runs thanks to RBI base hits from Brooke Hefley and Paityn Mackin.