Elam’s late hit caps off W.F. West’s comeback win over Rochester


ROCHESTER – Prior to the top of the seventh inning, with the Bearcats trailing 5-3, W.F. West assistant coach Fallon Tobin made her way to the coaches’ box on the first-base side.

On the way, she made sure to stop by the batter’s box, giving Lena Fragner a quick fist bump and a simple message — “Let’s have a big inning.”

Fragner did her part, kickstarting the inning with a base hit to right field.

“That’s exactly where I want to be in that game,” Fragner said. “Just to be able to go out there and get that hit was super exciting.”

Six batters later, Gracie Elam put the finishing touches on the rally, delivering a two-out, two-run single into center to give the Bearcats a 6-5 lead, and it went on to hold as the game-winner on Wednesday at Rochester.

“I was kind of peeing my pants a little bit,” Elam said with a laugh. “I got relaxed, and I saw the ball I wanted to hit … It was crazy.”

W.F. West coach Kevin Zylstra felt confident in Elam as she stepped to the plate, saying he didn’t even consider pinch-hitting for the freshman.

“I wasn’t thinking about what options we have,” Zylstra said. “No, we’re going with Gracie. And she came through big time.”

Elam’s hit capped the second rally of the day for the Bearcats, who overcame a 3-0 and 5-3 deficit in the final three innings to win.

Through four innings, Rochester was in control. The Warriors (3-5, 1-3 2A EvCo) plated a run in each of the first three innings of the game, including two RBIs from Leah Hartley, and Layna Demers was in cruise control on the mound.

“Our motto today was ‘one pitch at a time,’” Rochester coach Joni Lancaster said. “For those first four, we did win every inning, then we had a few little miscues.”

One of the miscues, a two-run error in the fifth, allowed W.F. West to tie the game at three in the fifth.

Even after Arissa LeBaron delivered a go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the fifth to give Rochester the lead again, more miscues in the seventh aided W.F. West’s comeback.

After Avalon Myers drove in Fragner to trim the lead to one, an infield fly was dropped, allowing Staysha Fluetsch to reach and put two on. Fluetsch came around to score the game-winning run.

“That team is gonna hit,” Lancaster said.  “It’s gonna happen. What can’t happen is us giving them easy stuff and easy errors. We should have been out of that game on routine stuff … It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Demers ended up on the hook for the loss, but she struck out seven and was only charged for two earned runs.

“Layna’s fantastic,” Lancaster said. “She’s gonna go out there, grind every single day, and give it all she has. That’s all we could ask of her.”

McKenna Vassar tallied three hits in four at-bats, including a double.

The Warriors have now dropped three of their last four games, each loss coming by one or two runs to three of the top teams in the league and across the state in Aberdeen, Tumwater, and W.F. West.

“We’re climbing,” Lancaster said. “We’re gonna kink these little things out and be where we want to be.”

The Bearcats have now won three of four and sit at 8-2 overall, but Zylstra noted that this win is one of his favorites so far this season.

“We don’t doubt ourselves,” Zylstra said. “Knowing that in the back of our minds, we could do it. And sure enough, we did. It was great to see.”

Elam echoed the same sentiment, adding that no matter the scoreline, the Bearcats will always have a chance.

“We always fight back till the end.”