State Softball: Junior-laden Thunderbirds fall in state title game


SELAH — It was drawn up exactly how the Tumwater High School softball team wanted.

The meat and the potatoes of its lineup at the plate with a chance to snare an improbable walk-off. Ella Ferguson reached base, so too did Jaime Haase. Marissa La Praim had a chance to play hero.

“We just said give us a shot,” Thunderbirds head coach Ashley Lupinski said.

Sometimes, the ball doesn’t bounce in a favorable direction.

La Praim dribbled a grounder to Sedro-Woolley pitcher Kasandra Gonzalez and fired to first for the final out and the Class 2A top-seeded Cubs triumphed over the sixth-seeded T-Birds 4-2 on Saturday afternoon at Carlon Park.

“We had to swing whenever it was close,” Ferguson said. “We wanted it more than anyone else. Sedro-Woolley is a good team and I’ll tip my hat to them.”

There was no definite sadness on the face of Tumwater (21-6) players. For many of the girls, there was the overarching feeling of disappointment, but happiness of the journey.

Ferguson confirmed it.

“We went to the very end and we went to the last day and the last possible game we could play,” the star pitcher said. “People looked down on us and thought we weren’t Tumwater anymore. We’re here and we’re back.”

Sedro-Woolley jumped on Ferguson behind extra-base hits to nab an early 2-0 lead. Tumwater would mount a two-out rally and cut the deficit to one run twice, but never overtook the Cubs.

It stranded nine runners on base, five in scoring position.

“I thought we took too many pitches,” Lupinski said. “I think we could have been more aggressive. It is a big moment and it is a lack of experience, through no fault of their own.”

Haase and Zoe Fields each recorded two hits and an RBI for Tumwater in the state title game. Ferguson gave up the most earned runs (four) since allowing five to Ridgefield back in March. The right-hander and University of Nevada commit finished with four strikeouts versus Sedro-Woolley.

The Thunderbirds reached the finale of the state tournament with a 5-2 victory over last year’s champ North Kitsap in the semifinals Saturday morning. After a home run hitting frenzy on Friday, they returned to some of their old ways.

Hard contact on the ground gave Tumwater early offense. Erika Schock scored on a wild pitch and recorded a run-scoring hit plus Sarah Stevens notched an RBI single to give it a 3-0 lead after three complete frames.

“Made them make plays and some they didn’t make,” Lupinski said.

The Vikings cut into the lead with two in the bottom of the fifth, but the T-Birds got those runs back in the sixth. Ferguson fired 12 strikeouts in a complete game in the circle.

She didn’t leave the circle in four games this weekend and ended the tournament with 33 strikeouts.

“North Kitsap did not come out at all,” Ferguson said. “I played my game and when I am pitching my game, that is when it is going well for me.”

Lupinski got emotional afterwards speaking of her ace.

“You cannot ask for a better competitor than Ella,” she said. “She gives you everything every time. To ask a kid to throw four games at the level she’s throwing it, I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

The lone senior is Megan Paull. Everyone else is expected to be back for 2025 with the same level of expectations as is every season for Tumwater.

“I think next year is our year,” Ferguson said. “This year was our get back year and next year we’re going to finish it. I’m going to go out with a bang my senior year.”