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1A state softball: Seton Catholic’s loss to Royal in state title game can’t spoil an amazing season for Cougars

Seton Catholic reached the state title game in just the program's third season

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 25, 2024, 10:32pm
3 Photos
Seniors Ellie Forster (12) and Alyssa Mancuso (7) hold the runner-up trophy after Seton Catholic lost to Royal 16-4 in the Class 1A state softball championship game at Columbia Playfields in Richland on Saturday, May 25, 2024.
Seniors Ellie Forster (12) and Alyssa Mancuso (7) hold the runner-up trophy after Seton Catholic lost to Royal 16-4 in the Class 1A state softball championship game at Columbia Playfields in Richland on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RICHLAND — As a sophomore, Alyssa Mancuso wondered if going out for Seton Catholic’s brand new softball team would be worthwhile.

Two years later, Mancuso said the decision to play was the best one she could have ever made, and nothing that happened Saturday at the 1A state tournament could change that.

Seton Catholic’s improbable chase for a state title in just the third season of the softball program’s existence fell short on Saturday, as the Cougars lost to Royal 16-4 in the state title game at Columbia Playfields.

“No one thought that we would get to this place,” Mancuso said of the title game. “I mean, I didn’t even know. After the first practice this year, I never thought we could get here.”

26 Photos
Ellie Forster (left) celebrates with Alyssa Mancuso (7) after Seton Catholic beat Mount Baker in the 1A state softball semifinal game at Columbia Playfields in Richland on Saturday, May 25, 2024.
Seton Catholic softball Photo Gallery

Even as the result of Saturday’s title game looked like a foregone conclusion, the Cougars never quit cheering on each other, playing hard and having fun.

And even in the somberness of the post-game hugs, through the tears, laughter still found its way out.

“This team is incredible,” Mancuso said. “I think what really brought us here is that we have incredible friendships, and we count on each other no matter what.”

Seton Catholic first-year coach Carrie Farrell said that showed up in ways she could not imagine.

Like when another senior, Ellie Forster, gave up her normal position, first base, and moved to the outfield so that eight-grader Kenzie Kuhnhausen could play first base.

“She came to me and said ‘Coach, you need to move me,’ ” Farrell said. “And said ‘No. I think you’re going to play first base in college.’ But she kept at it. She said ‘Let Kenzie play first.’ That’s a huge sacrifice. And that’s what these kids do all the time.”

It was a recipe for a season that included a Trico League championship and a runner-up finish at the district tournament.

The Cougars went on to post wins over Cashmere and Riverside at the state tournament to reach Saturday morning’s semifinal against Mount Baker.

Kingsley Williams hit a three-run home run and Jocelyn Kender added a two-run blast as part of a six-run third inning for Seton.

After Mount Baker rallied to cut the deficit to 6-4, the Cougars kept battling to escape with an 8-5 victory over the Mounties, sending Seton into the title game.

Against Royal, things went badly for Seton quickly. The Knights scored twice in the first, four in the second and three more runs in both the third and fourth to build a 12-1 lead.

The disappointment of a sub-par performance in Seton’s biggest game of the year was tempered by the memory of how far the program has come in two short years.

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In the spring 2022, the softball program was launched and looking for players. Mancuso wondered if she fit that call.

“I had lost my freshman year of softball to COVID and mentally I was done,” she said. “But then I thought ‘It’s Seton. This seems like a fun group, and I’m just going to go with it.

“But that first year was rough. We only had a couple of girls who had ever picked up a ball before. We were just a bunch of players coming from all over the county trying to come and bond together.”

Farrell said Mancuso played a big role in that.

“She’s an amazing person,” Farrell said. “It’s funny because she kind of scared me at the beginning because she’s so intense. She’s the leader of the pack. To watch her stick through all of this … it’s been absolutely amazing. I mean the senior class, they’ve been through the ringer to keep doing this.”

Eventually, things started to take shape and success followed this season.  It was boosted by additions that were the product of a pitch to any eighth graders in Battle Ground Schools wanted to come play with the Cougars to give the roster some needed depth.

“We literally put up a Facebook post and Kenzie (Kuhnhausen) and Jocelyn (Kender) showed up,” Farrell said.

And Cougars continued to show up all season long, right down to the final out on Saturday.

The Seton Catholic softball team made history this weekend, and the Cougars have a bright future in front of them with a roster of six freshmen and three sophomores.

“I’m going to root on these girls,” Mancuso said. “They’re going to be back here next year, and I can’t wait to watch them.”