(GENO LUDWIG/Chewelah Independent)
YAKVEGAS, HERE WE COME: Softball’s big dance is where the Chewelah softball team is headed…
Can we just say it like it is? Chewelah is a state power now after placing fifth the past two years at the State 1A Softball Tournament, and now heading to their third straight appearance this time at the state level.
Instead of the Tri-Cities it will be Yakima, where the Cougars will face Brewster in the first round on Friday at 9 a.m. Their coffee-cup game was courtesy of a second place finish at the District 7 2B Softball Tournament in Spokane last weekend.
“In our new league, I am not as familiar with who the toughest teams in the tournament will be,” Chewelah Head Coach Tom Skok said. “NWC is probably the team for everyone to beat, but Adna is ranked higher and Pe Ell beat NWC earlier in the year so there will be some tough opponents over at the tournament.”
The Cougars upset the Max Preps No. 3-ranked team in the state, Colfax, 9-6 in the district semifinals, and Northwest Christian was able to eek out a 4-1 victory over Chewelah in a tense state-like game for the district title.
Whatever they’re feeding the Cougars out at the Barbour Complex, it seems to be working. The rocket fuel Chewelah Cougars have hit the ball well and the defense is one of the best in the state, hands down. This wont be anything new for softball parents, as there have been two previous trips to state in the 1As.
“Being able to keep our level of play high for these last three years is a direct reflection of the long hours of hard work that players and parents have put in over the summers for the last 10 years,” Skok said. “The teams that keep going back to state, over and over have strong summer programs. Softball is one of the few remaining sports where putting in extra hours pays off for the person who puts in those hours.”
Brewster won’t be an easy challenge, as they have a 17-5 record and are ranked No. 12 in the state. After downing No. 3 Colfax, Chewelah has risen to No. 6 in the entire state.
If the Cougars do defeat Brewster, they could face No. 2 Pe Ell-Willapa Valley which defeated Adna in their district championship game. There will be no easy meals for the Cougars moving forward, but they’re a difficult squad to play as well. Adversity doesn’t faze the Coug-Gals much; they lost their starting pitcher Jaelynn Skok to graduation and their expected starting pitcher, Larissa Sweat because of a basketball injury, and keep on chugging.
“It has been difficult going from one pitcher to the next and getting to know their different pitching styles but the girls have always thrown hard and that makes it easy,” Skok said. We have had a great season and I think the loss of Larissa has been minimized by how well Abby Fuller has thrown, but it is hard to imagine how good we could have been with her pitching and hitting in our lineup this year.”
The Cougars have Leah Carpenter waiting in the wings for some relief pitching if needed in the state tournament as well. 2B teams normally don’t have pitching depth, but Chewelah isn’t your normal 2B squad.
“We have a lot of kids on our team who have played tournaments in the summer where the weather is really warm, so I don’t think that four or five games in two days will be that big of a factor,” Skok said. Having a couple extra pitchers and a couple quality subs will definitely help us through that stretch, though.”
Chewelah 11, Lind-Ritzville 2
Baylee Sobosky and Maddie Koler brought their big bats to the Barbour Complex for the opening game of the District 7 2B Softball Tournament last Tuesday. Sobosky hammered a three-run homer over the leftfield fence in the second inning and Koler crushed a two-run triple in Chewelah’s fourth trip to the plate as the Lady Cougars defeated Lind-Ritzville 11-2 in the first round of postseason playoffs.
Sobosky unloaded on the first pitch, launching the ball over the fence in left-centerfield with Leah Carpenter and Koler aboard the bases to give Chewelah a 6-0 lead. Koler’s three-bagger followed singles by Bailey Smith and Carpenter to widen the Cougar lead to 9-1.
The win moved Chewelah into the tournament semifinals to face Colfax on Saturday. The Cougars scored first with three runs in their first at-bat with Zandy Nelson’s line drive double up the middle doing most of the damage. Scoring were Smith, Carpenter and Sobosky for a 3-0 lead. Ahead 9-2 going into the final inning, Chewelah added two more runs on a single by Becca Bennettthrough the left side of the infield.
Abby Fuller threw the complete game for the Cougars, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out eight Broncos. Nelson, Smith and Carpenter each swatted two hits. Sobosky batted in four runs.
Chewelah 9, Colfax 6
Bailey Smith went 3-for-3 at the plate and Maddie Koler batted in three runs on Saturday afternoon as the Lady Cougars scored nine runs in the first two innings and held on for a 9-6 win over Colfax. The win over the third-ranked Lady Bulldogs earned Chewelah a berth into the state softball tournament bracket where the Cougars will meet Brewster in the first round in Yakima.
Although Chewelah lost the district championship game 4-1 to Northwest Christian on Saturday afternoon, the Lady Cougars will enter the state tournament as the second-seeded team from the Northeast District 7. They will play the opening game of the tournament at 9 a.m. on Friday, and will face either Liberty Christian or Pe Ell on Tuesday. Colfax and Liberty will also represent the Northeast 2B league in the 16-team state finale.
Brewster enters the state tournament with a 17-5 season record and was ranked ninth in last week’s MaxPreps poll. The Lady Bears have relied on scoring runs in the late innings to pull away from opponents. However, they lost two of their last three games to Kittitas, 17-4, and to Lake Roosevelt, 8-4.
Smith singled and scored in her first two trips to the plate. Koler doubled home two runs in Chewelah’s six-run opening inning and batted in a third run in the second inning to give the Cougars a 9-0 lead.
However, the nine-run Chewelah lead shrank in the later innings as Colfax came back slowly in the final four innings to narrow the scoring gap to three runs. Defensive plays by the Cougars put an end to Bulldog rallies in their fourth, sixth and seventh at-bats to safeguard the lead for the victory.
The win sent Chewelah into the district championship game to face Northwest Christian, a 4-0 winner over Asotin in the other semifinal game.
Smith’s first inning single into centerfield was followed by a bunt single down the third- base line by Leah Carpenter. Smith scored on a Colfax outfield error that put Kennedy Robison on base.
Koler’s double into centerfield brought Carpenter and Robison home. Abby Fuller and Zandy Nelson batted in two more runs, and Jessie Macrae’s sacrifice bunt down the first base line brought in another for a 6-0 Chewelah lead.
Smith singled to begin the three-run Chewelah half of the second inning. Runs were batted in by Baylee Sobosky, Koler and Fuller to spread the Cougar lead to 9-0. Those nine runs had to stand up through the next five innings as no more runs were added to the Chewelah side of the scoreboard.
Colfax scored two runs in the fourth inning, one in the fifth and three in the seventh, but the Bulldogs were unable to catch up. They finished the game with 13 hits, however, a stone-wall Cougar defense limited the damage.
Northwest Christian 4, Chewelah 1
Hits were even at seven apiece in the district championship game against Northwest Christian, but the Lady Cougars were unable to group them together to generate runs, leaving four players in scoring position in a 4-1 loss to the Crusaders.
“The games against NWC have prepared us for the type of competition we will see at the state tournament and in our last game against them we played much better, then in the first two,” Chewelah Coach Tom Skok said. “Our defense was better, and we had just as many hits, but they just weren’t as timely as in our first match ups.”
Baylee Sobosky’s single into left field scored Bailey Smith from third base in the sixth inning for Chewelah’s lone run of the game. Trailing 4-0 to the Crusaders, Smith hit a leadoff single to open the inning. She stole second base and was moved over to third base by Kennedy Robison. Maddie Koler gave Chewelah another baserunner with her single through the left side, but both were stranded to end the rally. With the run, however, the Cougars avoided being shut out.
Chewelah had its chances to put runs into the scorebook. Smith and Robison both singled in the first inning, but were left on base. Erica Tindal singled in the third inning and was marooned on third base. Sobosky and Koler were then left on second and third bases in the top of the sixth inning.
Northwest Christian held only a 1-0 lead through the first four innings. Then, the Crusaders put four hits together in the bottom of the fifth inning to widen the lead to 4-0.
Smith batted 2-for-3 and scored Chewelah’s one run. Also swatting hits were Zandy Nelson, Sobosky, Koler, Tindal and Robison.
Abby Fuller threw six innings for the Cougars, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. She struck out six Crusaders and gave up only one walk in the loss.