It was fitting that senior Haley Rainey, the reigning 2B State Player of the Year, would give the defending state champion Adna Pirates the lift they needed.
With two outs and eighth-grader Ava Simms on second base — and Adna and Forks notched in a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth — Rainey turned on a fastball and sent a line drive to centerfield while the speedy Simms rounded third and scored, giving the Pirates the 2021 2B District 4 Championship.
The Pirates’ dugout streamed onto the field and mobbed Simms at home plate, then greeted Rainey with a shower of hugs as Pirate parents and fans lining the entire fenced field erupted in cheer.
“It feels amazing,” Rainey said. “We worked so hard these last four years, for the seniors and this year, all season. It’s been our goal all year when we found out we couldn’t go to state. Every day we talked about it and it just feels amazing to complete that goal as a team.”
It’s been a wild ride the past two years for the Pirates, who captured their first state title since 2015 during the 2019 season — the last time the state tournament was held.
COVID-19 wiped out the entire 2020 season before it even began, then erased the 2021 state tournament as well.
That meant that this year’s district championship would serve as the culminating tournament and a makeshift state tourney.
The Pirates made the most of what they were given in a shortened year busting off a 15-game win streak en route to an undefeated regular season. Their only blemish — a small one — was a 3-1 loss to rival Pe Ell-Willapa Valley in a three-inning exhibition game at a jamboree.
The Pirates made quick work of opponents in the district playoffs, shutting out Rainier, 12-0, in the opening round, blasting Pacific 2B’s No. 2 seed, Ocosta, 11-1, in the second round and overcoming Forks in the title match.
Adna ends its season with a perfect 18-0 record, which includes 11 shutouts. The Pirates allowed a total of 18 runs all season.
Saturday’s victory came not as easily as most of the Pirates’ previous 17 wins were. They knew they would be in for a battle against a Forks team that had upset undefeated PWV, 2-0, in the semifinals.
Spartans’ pitcher Chloe Leverington, a Saint Martin’s University signee, and Rainey put on a classic pitcher’s duel. Each finished with 13 strikeouts, but Rainey was able to limit the Spartans to just three hits while the Pirates smacked out seven, including big ones when they mattered.
Neither team collected a hit until Kaylee Ashley’s double in the third inning.
But it was Simms’ line-drive single to center field in the fourth inning that sparked a run for the Pirates. Simms stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice fly then scored the first run of the game with Karlee Von Moos’ RBI triple to make it 1-0.
Moos scored moments later by stealing home on a passed ball, and just like that, Adna was up 2-0.
Leadoff hitter Danika Hallom made it 3-0 after scoring from third on a dropped ball by Forks left fielder in the bottom of the sixth. With just three outs to victory and Rainey in the circle, it felt like the Pirates had it locked up.
But Forks drew a walk, then Leverington was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second. An RBI single made it 3-1 and put Rainey in a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the top of the seventh.
Forks plated two more on a miscue by the infield to make it 3-3, but Rainey was able to notch a clutch K to end the top of the inning.
Adna came up scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, then Rainey went 1-2-3 to retire the Spartans in the top of the eighth.
The Pirates’ first two batters popped out to start the bottom of the eighth before Simms absolutely crushed a towering shot to right field that looked like it might turn into a walk-off homer at first. Instead, the ball smacked the fence two feet short of going over and Simms raced to second base for a double.
Rainey, the Pirates’ No. 3 hitter, stepped to the plate and drove pitch to centerfield as Simms speeded home for the walk-off victory.
“It feels really amazing,” Simms said. “To do it with these seniors and this whole team, just to get in this environment, it feels nice.”
Simms, who worked her way into the starting rotation as an eighth grader this year, said the experience of playing with and learning from the upperclassmen is something she’ll always remember.
“I’m going to remember the leadership and how lucky I was to get to play with girls who are going to help me in my future, pushed me forward and made me a better person,” Simms said. “Haley felt like a big sister to me this year and I’m glad I got to play with her.”
For coach Bruce Pocklington, it was as rewarding of an end to a season for a team he felt could have ran it back-to-back-to-back in state titles had they been given a chance.
“It feels really good,” Pocklington said. “It’s a short season, the girls worked really hard and we progressed really well. I’m very happy for them. It’s sad we didn’t get to play state this year and last year because we had pretty good shot at both of those. But this was kind of nice to take the place of that.”
For now, the Pirates will have to settle for district champs, their first district title since 2015. Pocklington said what he’ll remember most about this team is their willingness to give it their all for the betterment of the team.
“They’re just really good girls,” said Pocklington, holding back tears. “They’ve given me everything. No complaints. I’m very blessed. They’re really good leaders
“People don’t understand how hard these girls have worked for me; but it pays off. They’re not always happy with me, because I get a lot out of them. But they’re really willing to give, and it’s not me, it’s them.”