It is still March, after all. There’s still time for some madness.
The 2A EvCo has already built up a decently-stocked toolbox, three weeks into the softball season, but Centralia threw one more wrench into the pecking order Tuesday, stunning W.F. West 5-3 at Borst Park.
“It’s been five years for me, and this has been my goal since we started,” Centralia coach David Orr said. “The girls, we challenged them from the last game after they came in with no momentum and no energy at the beginning of the game. That’s been our focus, to keep the energy up from the start to the end, and they did that today, and it showed.”
Orr had waited five years for this; for Centralia as a program, it had been much, much longer. Prior to Tuesday, the Tigers last beat W.F. West in the 2011 district title game, in Ken Olson’s final year at the helm in Centralia.
In the 10 seasons that followed, the Bearcats swept and swept and swept again. Centralia made the state tournament that year but got knocked out of the consolation bracket — by W.F. West — and hasn’t made it back since. Chehalis went on to win State the next year and twice more since.
And as the streak dragged on, the challenge for the Tigers became even greater to overcome.
“When they looked across at the other dugout over there, it wouldn’t matter what athletes are in those uniforms,” Orr said. “They’d see the uniforms, and in the past we had been defeated just with that.
“Our focus has been to just play our game this year. We don’t worry about what everybody else is doing, we worry about what we’re doing.”
Tuesday, what the Tigers did was break a rivalry losing streak nearly as old as their freshmen, and they did it with authority, setting the tone from the start.
Hollynn Wakefield got things started in the first with a two-out single in the bottom of the first, and Makayla Chavez drilled a double to score her. Just like that, Centralia led, and Centralia was in control.
After W.F. West got itself going with a two-spot in the top of the second, the Tigers wrested momentum right back, again with two outs. A single, a beat-out bunt, and a sacrifice put two runners in scoring position for the top of the order, and Gracie Schofield didn’t wait around, driving a double to the wall in dead center to plate both and give Centralia its lead right back. Wakefield blooped an RBI single into right two batters later, and the Tigers had insurance — and belief.
Six days ago, Ella Ferguson pitched against Tumwater and kept the defending state champs off balance for seven innings. Tuesday, Centralia timed her up for seven hits and four runs in two.
“I’ve been putting pressure on them to adjust in the box early, and they all have,” Orr said. “They adjusted well.”
Wakefield finished the evening 3 for 4 with two RBIs, and behind her, Chavez went 3 for 3 and was intentionally walked once.
All told, seven Tigers combined for 11 knocks.
“When I write my batting order, I smile every time, because we have no holes,” Orr said. “All of those girls can be dangerous at the plate.”
Staysha Fluetsch came in out of the bullpen and held the Tigers to just one insurance run the rest of the way, but Centralia had done its damage.
All that was left to do was hold on against one of the most powerful lineups in the state.
Peyton Smith got things started, giving up the two runs in the second but bouncing back strong, retiring the side in order in the third and leaving the bases loaded in the fourth. Coming back out for the fifth, Orr gave the ball to Wakefield for a different sort of look.
“We’ve kind of kept Hollynn under wraps,” Orr said. “We knew what she could do, what she’s capable of, and we wanted the change of speed coming in. Peyton’s been a grinder for me for four years, she spins the ball, keeps it low, keeps it in the dirt. We figured when they adjusted to that, we’d switch it up, and the gameplan worked.”
Wakefield let runners reach base in all three of her innings of work but worked around them. She and Smith combined for just one strikeout, but the Tigers played perfect defense behind them, highlighted by a web gem in left field when freshman Brooklyn Sprague tracked down a fly ball before crashing through the temporary fence.
“It’s been a long time since I saw somebody go through the fence and make the catch,” Orr said. “She’s solid out there.”
The only blight on Wakefield’s line was a two-out home run by Avalon Myers in the top of the seventh, but by then the Tigers were happy to trade outs for runs, and they subsequently did, getting Fluetsch to pop out to end it.
The win keeps Centralia undefeated on the young season, and — for the moment — at the top of the 2A EvCo standings, in a league that has already done its best to cannibalize itself before April begins.
“This league is so good,” W.F. West coach Kevin Zylstra said. “Getting through it unscathed… was never going to happen.”
Zylstra and the Bearcats will head south for one a non-league game before going on Spring Break, facing 4A Union on Thursday. Centralia will get two more EvCo matchups back-to-back, at Black Hills on Wednesday before finishing off a postponed game against Shelton, with the chance to get some real momentum under its wings.
“We’ve got some great leaders,” Orr said. “Those kids have paid their dues, and they’re teaching these young girls how to win.”