Women’s softball finishes season with a top-six finish
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
The women’s softball team wrapped up their season last month with a trip to Oregon for the NWAACC Championships. Expectations were high for the Royals going in, but the path to the final was always going to be a difficult one. While the squad left the tournament without the ending they were hoping for, a top-six finish and a season of accomplishments were decent consolation prizes.
Day one in Oregon featured two games for the Royals, the first of which was against Highline and the second against Walla Walla. Against Highline, Douglas got off to the start they were looking for in the tournament as the Royals confidently took care of the opposition. It was a close enough game until the fourth inning; the Royals were up 3-1 when Sydney Brown cleared the fences for a three-run homer.
“It was nerve-wracking at first in the box, but coach had called time and told me to relax and just swing away, so that’s exactly what I did,” commented Brown.
The team scored two runs in the remaining innings and Tori Belton supplied some solid pitching to send the crew from Canada to their next game on the back of an 8-1 win.
Unfortunately, the Royals were unable to carry the momentum of that first win into their second game and they lost to Walla Walla 4-3.
Assistant coach Rob Warburton noted afterwards, “I think we were just missing that spark; we didn’t get off to a great start. We’d won quite a few games in a row and maybe coasted a bit on our laurels.”
The Royals did make a push near the end of the game when they were down 4-2 though. Veronika Boyd remarked on that effort in her post-game comments: “Definitely a wake-up call for us. I think we’re going to come back strong tomorrow and bring the heart we had from the seventh inning of that game.”
Come back strong they did.
Olympic was first on the bill for the next day and Douglas’ potent offence went to work early. With three runs in the first and another three in the third, the squad was up 6-1. Olympic had an offensive boom of their own at the top of the sixth to tie it up, but by the end of the inning, thanks to a clutch showing from Hillary Strelau, the Royals regained the lead 8-6 before shutting the door tight in the final frame to preserve the win.
“Being leadoff, I knew I just had to put the ball in play and do what I normally do. Took advantage of my speed, coach made me steal, and the rest of the team hit me in,” said Strelau.
The Royals then faced off against Chemeketa, ready for another hard-fought game. Both teams were ready to play “D,” and as a result, neither squad put points on the scoreboard until the fourth inning. Another Chemeketa run in the fifth put Douglas down 2-1, but the Royals didn’t panic and put up three of their own over the final two innings while keeping Chemeketa scoreless; 4-2 final score. Kelsey Hari, credited by coach Michelle Peters as having two game-saving throws, was having some difficulties with her arm: “[I] was actually really struggling before the game… I didn’t really take any practice throws—trying to preserve it.” Nonetheless, she didn’t let it bother her when it mattered: “I knew if there was a ground ball to me I’d just gunner it home. Was thinking, ‘Home, home, home,’ all the way.”
The next game was against Wenatchee Valley, and would be Douglas’ last. The Royals suffered their only mercy of the season 15-3. Taylor Miller gave the group something to cheer about in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run but it was never going to be enough.
Much as it wasn’t first place, Peters was impressed by her team’s showing this season: “These girls have made me proud from the very beginning. They’re a close team. They support one another. They do the right things on and off the field. Regardless of their role, they put their heart and full effort into it. I don’t know how much more I can say about these girls.”
And to round out the season, there were a number of individual accolades to consider as well. Making the North Region First All-Star Team were Allison Wiens, Belton, and Brown. Making the Second Team were Morganne Blattman, Ashley Jongejan, and Jennifer McKellar. Peters was named North Region Coach of the Year, and Strelau was selected as the North Region MVP along with being named to the NWAACC All-American Team.
The Royals overcame inexperience (nine freshman), a small roster (13 players), and some tough competition to put forth one of the finest seasons in the program’s history. Seventeen wins. Three losses. A North Division pennant win. And a top-six finish at the NWAACC Championship. Not bad. Not bad at all.