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Othello places second in 2A fastpitch state tournament

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | May 29, 2022 2:39 PM

SELAH - The Othello Lady Huskies finished second in the 2A fastpitch state competition this weekend, winning three games before losing to Tumwater High School 13-3 in the state championship at Carlon Park in Selah.

Othello finishes the season with a 24-2 record and a state runner-up title.

“We thought it’d be a lot closer of a game,” Othello head coach Rudy Ochoa said. “We weren’t sure of the outcome, but we didn’t think it’d be like this.”

The Lady Huskies entered the state tournament on a five-game winning streak and with the coveted No. 1 seed. Entering the first WIAA state tournament since 2019 due to the pandemic, Ochoa said he sensed a feeling of nervousness around the teams in the tournament.

“It’s nice to be back, but you can tell the kids are nervous,” Ochoa said. “It’s something that hasn’t been done for a lot of these kids in a while. Covid took a toll on everything.”

Nerves didn’t get to Othello on Friday in its first matchup of the tournament, a 6-0 win over No. 16 seed West Valley (Spokane). Thanks to lights-out pitching by sophomore Amarie Guzman – who recorded 13 strikeouts in the win – the Lady Huskies moved on to their next matchup.

“It feels good,” Ochoa said on getting the first win in the tournament. “We didn’t play our best, and we still won, so that’s nice.”

In the second game of the day on Friday against Port Angeles, Othello once again took an early lead and never looked back. The Lady Roughrider’s Zoe Smithson knocked back a home run to take an early 1-0 lead, but the Lady Huskies answered quickly. Junior Camryn McDonald tied the game with an RBI double and freshman Emi Pruneda’s 2 RBI single gave Othello the lead.

Some insurance runs by sophomore Persayis Garcia on an error, McDonald on an RBI triple and Maya Valdez on an RBI single gave the Lady Huskies a 6-1 win over Port Angeles.

The win punched their ticket to the final four on Saturday, with the state title in sight.

“We felt pretty confident,” Ochoa said on entering Saturday’s games.

Their confidence shined in a 17-3 win over the Lakewood Lady Cougars. Othello’s bats came alive, sparking an 18-hit, three-home run affair. Valdez went yard in the second inning before doing it again in the fourth. Pruneda also hit a home run in the win, and senior Hailee Guzman led all players with four hits. The run rule was triggered in the bottom of the fifth inning, sending Othello to the championship game.

“Actually, we were surprised we beat [Lakewood] that bad,” Ochoa said. “We thought it was going to be a lot closer of a game. Our bats came alive that game.”

After a blowout win in the semifinals, the Lady Huskies entered the state championship game with a strong feeling of confidence that was soon washed away. Tumwater came out swinging and took a 3-0 lead after a three-run homer to center field in the bottom of the first by Jaime Haase.

“They were prepared,” Ochoa said. “I mean, what else can I say about them? They hit the ball real well, we were just lacking in our hitting.”

Valdez scored in the top of the second on a wild pitch to cut into the lead, but Natalie Martinez was caught stealing second before the Lady Huskies could add on any more runs. Thunderbird shortstop Aly Waltermeyer hit a two-run home run to center field to give Tumwater a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Martinez answered with a home run of her own in the top of the fifth, but back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the fifth gave Tumwater a 9-2 lead.

“Our bats came alive [against Lakewood],” it just didn’t happen in this game,” Ochoa said.

Valdez hit another home run in the sixth and Tumwater rang off four runs in the bottom of the sixth to give the Thunderbirds a 13-3 lead, therefore triggering the run rule. Tumwater players raced onto the field in celebration, while Othello’s heads sank.

“It’s part of life,” Ochoa said on what he told his players after the game. “You work hard and everything, and sometimes things just don’t work out.”

Ochoa quickly followed up by saying how the loss may sting, many other teams wish they made it as far.

“In the long run, it does work out. Every team in the state right now wishes they were in your spot, except the team that won of course. Those other two teams that are going for third and fourth, they wish they were right here.”

Despite the loss, Ochoa is confident in his players’ abilities to learn from the game.

“Oh yeah, we have a very young team,” Ochoa said. “I feel we’ll be back next year. Not only that, they were a good team to coach. They listen well - pretty much anything we asked them to do they would do. And that went through this weekend too.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE GAME, PICK UP TUESDAY'S EDITION OF THE COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD.

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