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1A softball: Youthful Seton Catholic team beats Riverside 5-4 to advance to state semifinals

Cougars built 5-0 lead then had to fend off late rally to advance

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 24, 2024, 3:53pm
7 Photos
Kingsley Williams (right) celebrates her RBI single with teammate Kenzie Kuhnhausen (33) as coach Carrie Farrell looks on during Seton Catholic's 5-4 win over Riverside in the Class 1A state softball semifinals at Columbia Playfields in Richland on Friday, May 24, 2024.
Kingsley Williams (right) celebrates her RBI single with teammate Kenzie Kuhnhausen (33) as coach Carrie Farrell looks on during Seton Catholic's 5-4 win over Riverside in the Class 1A state softball semifinals at Columbia Playfields in Richland on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RICHLAND — When Carrie Farrell took over the Seton Catholic softball team at the start of the season, the veteran coach was greeted with a lineup of mostly freshmen and sophomores, not to mention two eighth graders.

“Those first couple of practices, I was thinking ‘oooooh, this could be a long year,’ ” Farrell said.

Turns out, Farrell was right. Seton Catholic will be playing on the final day of the high school softball season.

The Cougars held off a furious rally by Riverside of Chattaroy Friday afternoon to beat the Rams 5-4 and advance to the 1A state semifinals. Seton Catholic will face Mount Baker at 9 a.m. Saturday at Columbia Playfields.

“It means a lot, especially since we are such a new program,” sophomore catcher Kingsley Williams said. “And especially for our seniors, this is a really big deal for them. We have such a young team.”

That youthful exuberance fueled the Cougars early on Friday.

Rather than hitting home runs, like the Cougars did in their opening state game Thursday when they beat Cashmere 13-0, Seton put together rallies on a collection of hits from throughout the lineup.

“That’s really what matters,” said pitcher Jocelyn Kender, one of the team’s eighth graders.

Seton loaded the bases in a third, then Ellie Forster beat the throw home on a fielder’s choice. The throw resulted in an error that allowed Williams to score.

Zola Stephens added an RBI single to make a three-run rally.

The Cougars added two more runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Alyssa Mancuso and Williams, putting Seton up 5-0.

“Everyone was making little adjustments on the ball,” Williams added.

It looked like Seton was on its way to the semifinals after Kender retired the Rams in order in the fourth.

But in the fifth inning, Riverside scored three runs and never hit the ball out of the infield.

An error sparked the rally. That was followed by two bunt singles, a wild pitch, and then the Rams’ third run came home when a runner from third scored on a throw to first on a dropped third strike.

A bunt single, sacrifice bunt and an error off a bunt got Riverside within 5-4 in the sixth.

Farrell said that was the opposite side of Seton’s youth coming to play.

“The Seton we were at the start of the season, they overthought things too much, they worried too much, they had never been in these pressure situations,” Farrell said. “In the last inning, I said ‘We’ve got to be the Seton we are now. Not the one we were at the start of the season.’

“And these kids, they are probably the most coachable kids I’ve had in 20 years of coaching. … They have grown so much this season, it’s nuts.”

As nerve-wracking as the fifth and sixth innings were for the Cougars, the seventh inning got over quickly.

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On the first pitch of the inning, Kender got Riverside’s I Cotner to pop up to the pitcher’s circle.

A couple pitches later, Mancuso caught an infield pop-up at second.

Then Stephens snared a line drive at third that was just off the dirt for the third out.

There was a momentary pause before the Cougars burst into celebration.

“I didn’t know if the ball hit the ground or not,” Kender said. “It was pretty exciting.”

Kender’s path to the team was an unusual one.

Small schools in 1A, 2B and 1B can use eighth graders to fill out their roster.

Two years ago, when Seton was starting its softball program, the school used eighth graders from Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Joseph’s Catholic schools in Vancouver.

Then the school was informed it could not use eighth graders from those schools because those schools were not WIAA member schools.

Instead, Seton had to find eighth graders from Battle Ground Public Schools to fill out its roster.

This winter, Seton sent out requests to Battle Ground middle schools, looking for eighth graders who wanted to play varsity softball.

Kender was one of two eighth graders who answered the call.

“It’s really exciting,” Kender said. “It’s a great group of girls. I’m just really excited I had this opportunity because I never saw it coming.”

Now, it’s the rest of the state that didn’t see Seton Catholic coming.

And the Cougars are in the state softball semifinals for the first time in school history.

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