Softball team caps off a great season with a second place finish
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
Normally, finishing second means that you’ve lost in the finals, which can leave quite the bittersweet feeling on a team. But for the softball team who finished silver this year at the NWAC Softball Championships, the medal was a proof of the progress that team has made since last year.
The Royals entered the tournament seeded fourth as a result of their 16-4 record in the regular season. They were matched against Edmonds Community College. The bats of the Royals sounded early and the team was able to take a defining lead going into the fifth inning. A close call in the sixth inning added excitement to the game as an error by outfielder Daniella Vilio produced two runs for Edmonds. They managed to grab another run before the Royals could close out the inning. A scoreless inning for Douglas lead to a tense seventh inning, where the team defended their one run lead and held on for the win, taking the game 6-5.
They faced off against last year’s tournament champions, Spokane, next. In a thrilling game, it was the pitchers that told the story. The Royals ace Keeley Ainge faced off against Spokane’s ace Michelle Strauss. Ainge pitched a nearly perfect game, allowing only two hits and striking out two in seven innings to shut out the former champs. On the other side of the mound, Strauss played nearly as well. But in these types of games, nearly is not nearly enough, and the Royals were able to get two runs by her by the end of the game. It was all they needed, and they took the game 2-0.
Their next opponent was their division rivals, Bellevue College. During the regular season, the two teams split their four meetings. But during the game that mattered the most, it looked as if Bellevue failed to show up to play. The Royals came out swinging early, scoring four in the first three innings, forcing a pitching change from Bellevue. The change hardly mattered as Douglas batters were seemingly on fire. Madison Heggie was fantastic for the Royals, getting three hits in four at-bats and scoring three runs, while also batting in a runner. Laura Baldry was also electric, having a perfect game at bat, hitting all three times she came up, allowing four batters to score.
On the mound, Ainge was fantastic through five innings, before a home run in the sixth scored two for Bellevue. A second home run came in the seventh, scoring another two, but the Royals were able to close the game out after that, taking the game with a convincing 9-4 score.
Next up was last year’s silver medalists, Mt. Hood. Both teams looked stellar to start, but it was the Royals who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead through three and a half innings. It took Mt. Hood four innings to figure out Keeley Ainge, but they managed a run to break open the game. A home run in the sixth inning and an error by first baseman Janessa Neufeld put two runs on the board for Mt. Hood, and they took the lead 3-2.
In a do or die inning for the Royals, it was Vilio who came up big for the team, hitting her first home run of the season to tie the game. Ainge and the team were able to hold on in the bottom of the seventh to force overtime. In the eighth, Douglas managed to score one runner to put a significant amount of pressure on Mt. Hood. They responded in a flurry, packing the bases with runners, scoring the equalizer, and then scoring the game winner, taking the game 5-4, and sending the Royals to the loser’s bracket.
It was no surprise who the Royals would be facing next. Bellevue College came into the do or die game ready to take revenge on the Royals. But the Royals were ready for a slugfest as well. In the first two innings of the game, the Royals roasted Bellevue’s starter, prompting them to change their pitcher early into the second inning.
Meanwhile, Bellevue’s batters also found success. A home run in the first inning and several hits scored a total of two runs for Bellevue and gave them the lead going into the second. However, the lead didn’t last long. Building on their single run in the first, the Royals scored two more in the second to take the lead.
Bellevue replied with runs of their own in the third. Several hits and a single error gave the team two runs, and the lead going into the fourth. But it was in the fourth where the Royals broke open the game. Or rather, Bellevue broke it open for them. In Blue Jays-esque style, the Royals ripped back the lead on the back of three errors from their opponents. They would end up scoring four runs as a result of the errors.
Bellevue would answer as best as they could. A home run and a few more hits gave them two runs. But that was as close as they got for the rest of the game. An insurance marker from the Royals in the fifth would end up being the last run that came in a wild game. Ainge was able to close the door on the Bellevue batters, and shut them out in the final three innings of the game, allowing her team to take the game with a score of 8-6, and punching their ticket to a final re-match against Mt. Hood. Shortstop Taylor Woodward was huge for the Royals, hitting twice and being walked once for her three at bats. She also scored two runs while bringing in three of her teammates.
The win brought the Royals into the finals, against Mt. Hood, where they would need to win two in a row to win the championships. Unfortunately, Mt. Hood’s starting pitcher Kayla Byers ensured there would be no need for a second game. In seven innings of work, Byer surrendered two runs on five hits, while striking out six of the Royals batters to win the championship. The Royals surrender seven runs through seven innings, as Mt. Hood’s batters showed them how they got to where they were. The loss was a hard one to swallow, especially after such excellent play throughout the entire of the tournament, but the second place finish will be a memory that many of the Royal players will hold near and dear for a long time.
The loss also marks the end of the season for the Royals. The team went 16-4 in the regular season, while falling just short of winning the entire league. There were five freshman in the starting lineup, which, with the experience they’ve gained from their deep post-season run, means that next year, the Royals will be a very dangerous team.