EvCo still strong, now with added fuel of close misses


There was a lot of heartbreak in the Class 2A Evergreen Conference last spring.

Centralia made the state tournament in Selah for the first time in a handful of years, but got walked-off in the opening round against Lynden and dropped a 5-3 decision to District 4 cohort R.A. Long in an elimination game.

Then the 2022 state champions Tumwater and semifinalist W.F. West fell in loser-out contests in the district tournament and in the blink of an eye, its seasons were over.

And Rochester, despite a 7-5 record in the EvCo, just missed out on a berth to the district tourney.

It all adds up to a conference that for many years, is looked at as one of the strongest in 2A. Add in the factor of motivation and it is expected to be difficult once again.

Centralia returns a nucleus led by all-conference hitter Makayla Chavez in the heart of its defense and lineup plus junior pitcher Hollyn Wakefield. The right-hander delivered the Tigers to state and pitched in both games at Carlon Park.

Coach David Orr’s squad believes the key will be starting off well and avoiding a rollercoaster like season where Centralia went through a week-plus stretch of not piecing together wins before turning it on in May to finish second in districts.

Tumwater returns perhaps its biggest cog in a 12-10 season in star pitcher Ella Ferguson as her junior year kicks off after a sophomore season with an earned run average under 2.00 and 240 strikeouts.

The Thunderbirds were sophomore-heavy a year ago and now with those players back after playing significant time. They lost just one starter in Kylie Waltermeyer.

“It is a pretty good mix, but a lot of experience,” Tumwater third-year coach Ashley Lupinski said.

One of the constants at W.F. West is making a routine trip to Selah and going on a deep run at state. Even with an electric offense that put up over nine runs per game, the pitching was the downfall.

The Bearcats, after limiting Mark Morris in a pigtail matchup, gave up at least seven runs in their last three contests in the District 4 tournament that limited them from extending a long state tourney streak.
Coach Kevin Zylstra will have a boatload of arms at his disposal this season plus the return of all-conference players Lena Fragner and Avalon Myers will keep the offense competitive.

Rochester brings back one of the top pitchers in the area in Layna Demners and a top hitter in its lineup in Macey Fluetsch. The Warriors had a below .500 overall record last year coming off a state tournament appearance.

Most of the newcomers are filling roles from a graduating class of six seniors, five of them impact players.

“They’ll do all right,” Rochester coach Joni Lancaster said. “We got a lot of work to do.”
Black Hills made a drastic improvement from two years ago to last spring, earning eight wins overall and three in the EvCo.