(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
IMPRESSIVE YEAR: Indians overcome obstacles en route to state berth…
Colville is once again headed to the state tournament, and while that’s been the goal all along, there have been some challenges along the way. In the softball-rich NEA League, the top teams in the league could beat one another on any given day and have. The Indians, by virtue of their 6-4 victory in the District 6/7 crossover game at Vaagan Field on Saturday, punched their ticket to the 1A state bracket in Tri-Cities.
“This season has kind of been the year of ‘what the heck?’” Colville Coach Mandy Sumner said, pointing to how Deer Park, Colville, Freeman and Lakeside (all four are at the state tournament) all had close matchups. She gave credit to her girls for continuing to persevere through the ups and downs.
One of those moments happened during the crossover game when Cascade hit a home run ball on the third pitch of the game. It could have been a tone-setter, but instead all it did was cause the Colville dugout to go “huh, guess we have to go to work.”
Sumner has been the coach of the Colville program in prior years, leading them to state appearances and state championships. But after stepping down to focus on her growing family for a few years, she’s been away from the players and their strengths and weaknesses. So going into 2019, Sumner was a anew coach and had to re-learn everything about the team.
There has been adversity in this squad despite their impressive 15-6 record. Sumner lost her father, a man who had played a really big part in her life and in athletics, in April. The girls on the team rallied around their coach however, and really helped her through the tough time.
Colville finished third in the stacked NEA League. Sumner said she strongly believes the state champion this year will come from the league.
“Years ago we weren’t very strong as a league and would get beat at the state tournament,” Sumner said. “But Spokane has become a hotbed for softball and a lot of private coaches and pitching coaches live in the Spokane area, so a lot of programs are getting these private lessons, playing summer ball and our area has become really strong in the sport.”
The Indians had to overcome an injury to their starting pitcher, and senior third baseman Hallie Cox, who hadn’t pitched since freshman year, came in and never missed a beat in the circle.
“We’ve focused this year on controlling the controllables because there are going to be some things that are uncontrollable,” Sumner said.
The lineup on Saturday was different from what the Indians had used all year long, Cox pitched a good game and the defense behind the Indians held strong.
Cascade led 2-0 through two-and-a-half innings before Colville notched a five-run rally in the bottom of the third and held on the rest of the way. The Indians finished with 10 hits, including a 2-for-3 performance from Cox with three RBI. Colville also got doubles from catcher Makayla Weimer and Molly Goodwin.
Cox was named the Benchwarmers Softball MVP and has brought a senior presence mentality to the team. She was also named to the NEA League 2nd team All-League squad.
Senior second baseman Mia Sandaine has also provided leadership and was named first team all-league. This came after she hadn’t been on the team for two years but came back to play for Sumner.
“She’s the heart and soul of the lineup and she is the voice,” Sumner said. “She is always vocal, always providing that leadership and screaming around the diamond all the time.”
At catcher, Makayla Weimer has been the rock on defense in the key position for any softball team.
“Mak is the anchor on the field and she is the glue that holds us together,” Sumner said.
At centerfield, Hannah Worrell has been fantastic in centerfield as a junior while sophomore Andi Brown was a force at shortstop. Both were second team All-League selections.
“They were first-team talent, but when you finish third you don’t have as much clout in the all-league selections,” Sumner said. “Andi is just a sophomore and playing at a collegiate level, she’s making plays that just aren’t normal. Hannah is the leader in the outfield.”
Sumner, who is a graduate from Colville High School and the softball program, knows how impactful the sport can be for student athletes and knew the time was right to return to the program.
She feels this squad can play with any team at state with a chance to win. When it comes to pitching depth in the tournament format, along with Cox, Sumner can also pitch Jade Braun and Rebecca Koeppen if needed.
Their first opponent is Seattle Christian on Friday at 10 a.m. at the Columbia Playfield in Richland. Seattle Christian is 14-2 on the year and went 5-1 in their league. Seattle Christian is ranked no. 16 in the state.
“Seattle Christian has a six-foot pitcher and she is a freshman, so we will probaby go for applying as much pressure on the basepaths as we can,” Sumner said.
Anyone who has seen Colville play, knows their baserunning can almost be an artform in pushing for that extra base.
So keep an eye on the Colville base and ball teams this weekend. Colville baseball is in the final four and Colville softball is just four wins away from a state championship.