Back-to-back: Pirates repeat as state champions

Adna wins third title in last four tournaments


YAKIMA — Two months ago, Adna coach Bruce Pocklington wasn’t sure if the Pirates would make it back to the state title game.

After losing Karlee VonMoos and Brooklyn Loose, the 2023 C2BL’s Co-MVPs, he knew that not only would several young players have to step up, but returners from last year’s team would also have to take a leap forward.

Saturday’s state championship was the perfect conclusion to a season in which the Pirates did just that, as they topped Warden 13-5 to capture their second consecutive state championship.

“We grew,” Pocklington said. “The whole bunch. We set the expectation and they rise to it. I’m so proud of them.”

The veterans made their presence felt throughout. Ava Simms allowed just one run in the first four innings and five overall, and Kendall Hupmhrey gave the Pirates the lead with a three-run home run in the third.

Simms finishes the season with 202 strikeouts, and Humphrey's home run was her 13th of the season. Danika Hallom also hit a solo home run as part of her two-hit day. She finishes the season with a team-high .564 batting average.

The “young pups” did their part as well. Brytin Dollarhyde, an eighth grader, hit a two run home run as part of her two hit day. Lena McCloskey also collected two hits, including a two-run triple, and Alyssa Carroll also drove in a run with a triple.

“It takes everyone,” Simms said. “And everyone stepped up. I will never not be proud of how the younger girls stepped up this year.”

After the initial celebration and photos with the trophy, Pocklington took a few minutes to hug each and every single one of his players.

“To tell them I love them, cause I bark at them a lot,” Pocklington said. “I didn’t apologize. But it’s kind of an apology. I guess it’s Bruce’s apology.”

No one hesitated to get in line, including Simms, who got emotional talking about the impact he has had on not just her softball career, but her life.

“He pushes me every step of the way,” Simms said through tears. “I don’t think there was ever a doubt in his mind for me, even when I was doubting myself … I wouldn’t even be the person I am without Pock.”

Simms was also in the circle in last spring’s state title game, but this year, she had a new batterymate.

After playing all of the regular season in center field, Hallom was put behind the plate at the start of the district tournament last week. She had been practicing behind the plate periodically throughout the year, but prior to the postseason, she had no experience in a varsity game.

“That first district game, I looked at the lineup and went ‘Oh, okay,’” Hallom said. “And it’s actually probably my favorite thing to do now.”

Pocklington credited assistant coach Mike McDonald for the switch, saying the decision was a “difference maker.” He also commended Simms, who battled through a knee injury that kept her out of last week’s district tournament championship game.

“What a warrior,” Pocklington said. “What else can you say?”

In addition to being Adna’s second straight state championship, it’s the Pirates’ third in the last four state tournaments, and the 11th in school history, according to the WIAA website.

It’s also the first time in a long time that the Pirates completed the Triple Crown, winning the league title, district title, and state title in the same season.

Pocklington wasn’t 100 percent sure, but he said that 1994 or 1995, the last time Adna went back-to-back, was likely the last time the Pirates pulled it off.

“It feels amazing to break the curse,” Hallom said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”

This is Pocklington’s third ring, as he was at the helm in 2019. He admitted that he feels that they would have a couple more championships if COVID-19 didn’t cancel the state tournament in 2020 or 2021, but after celebrating with his players, that was the least of his concern.

Even after they drenched him with a cooler full of ice water after the game.

“I do this because I love to watch them grow,” Pocklington said. “It’s just so much fun to watch these guys do what we teach them to do.”

“It took a lot of coaching, and it took a lot of learning,” he added. “But it pays off … I’m just really proud.”