Tigers Make Long-Awaited Return to Selah


In May 2019, the Centralia softball team came a game short of the winner-to-state game at the 2A District tournament, but the Tigers, under then-first-year coach David Orr, went to Selah anyways.

“I loaded up some of the players and drove over,” he said. “That team that we had was a really good team, and we were just getting better. It was really junior heavy. We drove over and we watched, like ‘This is where we want to be, this is where we want to get to, this is our ultimate goal.’”

Then COVID-19 happened. And a replacement levy failed. And Orr and the Tigers had to go back to Square 1. 

Four years later, after an upstart season and a pair of upsets in the district tournament, Centralia is making the trip back to Selah. 

This time, they’re bringing their equipment with them. 

Fresh off their second-place finish at the district tournament, the Tigers earned the No. 9 seed in the 2A state bracket, and will open play at Carlon Park at 11 a.m. on Friday.

“I congratulated them on a second extra week of practice (Monday),” Orr said. “This is the longest season for me in high school, so it’s kind of new for all of us.”

It’s the Tigers’ first trip to the softball state tournament since 2011. Outside of the softball diamond, it’s Centralia High School’s first action at the state level since the baseball team made it in 2018.

Orr said he’s seen and heard excitement from all over the district, from elementary schools up to the high school. After Centralia’s second levy failure in three years — the first one resulting in the transfer of many student-athletes out of the district — is a win who’s rising tide could end up lifting all boats.

“For the ones that stayed, it’s like ‘We can still do this. We can put together teams and compete,’” he said. “I think it’s good for everybody, for all sports and everybody at Centralia. It’s something to celebrate. The girls have worked hard, and hard work pays off.”

And when the Tigers get over the mountains, they won’t be there just to soak up some sun in the Palm Springs of Washington. They’re going to make some more noise. 

The faces might be different this time around, with W.F. West, Tumwater, and Rochester not making it to State. But Orr still sees District 4, and the 2A EvCo specifically, as being the strongest hotspot of 2A softball in the state. And as it happens, the Tigers are one of just two teams to get out of the EvCo with a win over every single league opponent.

“If we could hit through our league and our districts, we can take a breath, go over, and just compete,” Orr said. “Our biggest focus is that we’ve been geared up for all these pitchers that are throwing a lot of velocity at us. They throw hard. We’re going to have to learn how to sit back, be patient, let the ball get there, and not overswing or swing out ahead of it.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers are getting ready to show a whole lot of different looks in the circle. Early in the season, Centralia started off with Peyton Smith as its main pitcher. As the spring went on, sophomore Hollynn Wakefield took on a greater role. But Orr also has freshman Mckenna Smith and sophomore Payton Baumel as extra options to change the pace, and he has no qualms about mixing and matching, between games or within them.

“It's going to depend on what kind of pitching we’re seeing and what kind of offense we come up against,” he said. “We’re not going to have a standard gameplan. We’ll be making a lineup based on the other team.”