SPOKANE – The idea hit Tony Batinovich late Saturday morning, after Puyallup beat Woodinville in a state Class 4A softball tournament semifinal game.
That’s the moment the Vikings coach thought his young squad just might win it all.
Batinovich pointed around his infield – at the three freshmen who start at first, third and shortstop, and especially at the left-hander who starts at second base.
“We’re such a young team,” he said. “What it took was a lot of things falling into place and one helluva pitcher.”
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The pitcher, senior Marissa Miller, baffled Walla Walla through seven innings while the freshman shortstop, Natalie Joyner, ripped a two-run triple that proved to be the winning hit as the Vikings scored a 4-2 win over the Blue Devils to claim their first state softball crown.
Miller was stellar Saturday at Dwight Merkel Sports Complex, shutting out Woodinville, 5-0, thanks to some timely fielding by the left-handed second baseman, Jordyn Bartleson, who started a key double play from her knees with the bases loaded and one away in the fourth inning.
Miller used a fastball and an assortment of breaking pitches to reach the final. But against the Blue Devils she mixed in a change-up.
“It used to be my go-to pitch, but I didn’t need it in the first three games,” Miller said. “I’ve never faced Walla Walla, but they had me scouted pretty well. They were hitting my fastball pretty well early and I needed to keep them off-balance.”
Leading 2-1 in the fifth inning, Emily Ensrud led off the inning with a bloop double down the left-field line and moved to third on an infield hit by Bailey Plumb. Joyner then drove the ball into the gap in right-center field to drive in two.
Miller insisted throughout the tournament that she treated each state-tournament game the same as any other game. But in the final innings against Walla Walla, her pitches had a little something extra – despite her continued outward calm.
“I don’t remember Marissa ever pitching as well as she did this weekend,” said senior catcher Kylie Perez. “She was so calm out there, and she just went after hitters.”
Bartleson and Ensrud sparked the Vikings through four games – Ensrud with her speed on base and Bartleson with the kind of toughness you expect from a two-time state wrestling champion and Division I soccer prospect.
“I’ve been playing second since I was little,” she said. “I’ve always liked to play infield, and it just comes naturally to me.”
Richland 11, Bethel 1
Richland roared back from a first-round loss to the third-place trophy, knocking out Bethel in just five innings via the 10-run rule.
Bethel lost to Walla Walla, 7-4, in the other semifinal game before beating Redmond, 4-3, to reach the third-fourth place game.