KENT — Emily Ensrud had to remember to enjoy again.
So she forgot about her recent struggles at the plate and gave herself something to smile about.
Ensrud came up with a clutch RBI single and threw out a runner at the plate to help Puyallup win its first outright West Central 4A District softball championship with a 3-2 victory over Bethel on Sunday at the Kent Service Club Ballfields.
The sophomore outfielder had just one hit in the tournament before her timely pop that tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning.
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Her mindset was simple: “Just to have fun and play the sport that I’ve been playing forever,” she said.
Fellow sophomore Regan Byrd drove in the winning run in the sixth and senior ace Marissa Miller closed out a 1-2-3 seventh to send the Vikings (23-2) to the 4A state tournament in Spokane brimming with confidence. They reached the title game with a 3-2 win over a streaking Camas team that placed second at state last season.
Bethel (16-9), the Cinderella story of the tournament after clinching a first-ever state berth the day before, beat Beamer in the semifinals 6-3 and had Puyallup squirming early after Amanda Lyyski’s two-run single in the first inning.
The Braves failed to add on, but still showed they have what it takes to be successful at state.
“They know they can compete with these kids,” coach Rachael Barger said.
Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich was confined to the dugout midway through the game after questioning some balls and strikes.
“I never learned to shut up, you can ask my mom,” he said. “It’s no different than when I was in elementary school.”
Puyallup was one of four co-champions in the rain-shortened 2010 district championship, but this one was far more special for Batinovich, who now has a chance to collect his 900th coaching victory this weekend, combining volleyball (575 wins) and softball (324).
Camas (19-4) beat Beamer (19-8) to decide third and fourth places Sunday, 7-5.
The remaining three state qualifiers out of the tournament — Tahoma (21-2), Battle Ground (19-5) and Emerald Ridge (18-11) — all fought through the consolation bracket to advance.
Tahoma, which lost in the first round to Bethel, took care of business Sunday with wins over Olympia, 8-3, and Yelm, 12-2, earning a fourth straight state berth.
“It’s not what I had envisioned,” coach Tom Milligan said of the battle through the consolation bracket, “but it’s definitely a good feeling at the end. It (state) was our goal.”
Sophomore shortstop Mia Corbin, who recently committed to play soccer for Cal, helped make sure the Bears reached that goal by going 11 for 15 in the tournament.
Emerald Ridge, which lost to Beamer in Saturday’s quarterfinals, went 2-1 Sunday to grab the final state berth, ultimately eliminating Yelm, 7-1.
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