Sunday, September 24, 2023

Knights place second in 1A state tournament

Sports Reporter | May 28, 2023 7:11 PM

RICHLAND – From the first pitch to the final out, It took 17 hours and 32 minutes to decide the winner of Saturday’s 1A State Fastpitch Softball Tournament, as the Montesano Bulldogs outlasted a weather delay that postponed the late innings to be played on Sunday morning, and defeated Royal 8-2.

As rumbles of thunder could be heard from Columbia Playfield in Richland, the game was initially delayed for 30 minutes until the weather passed. Once the delay was over, field conditions forced the final three remaining innings to be played on Sunday morning, starting from where they left off – Montesano leading 8-2 in the bottom of the fifth, with Royal senior Madison Ortega-Sanchez's at-bat with a 1-2 count and two outs on the board.

“It gave us a chance to reset, and start fresh (Sunday),” Royal Head Coach Lisa Lawrence said. “We would have liked to finish the game in the moment, but it was nice to have a chance to reset.”

Though the Knights had a chance to add runs with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, a pop-out caught by the Bulldogs sealed the state championship game that took two days to complete.

“(On Sunday) We came out energized and looked sharp, ready to get at it, I think we just didn’t have enough game left to play to make up the difference,” Lawrence said. “We fought hard for 2.1 innings.”

The Knights struck first in the bottom of the first inning, scoring on an RBI single by Ortega-Sanchez that sent home freshman Jillian Allred. The lead remained until the top of the third inning, where Montesano scored four runs with two outs on the board. The Bulldogs added some insurance to the game by scoring four more runs in the top of the fifth inning, once again with two outs. Royal managed to get a run back on an RBI single by Allred that sent home junior Raegan Wardenaar, but the game went into its delay soon after.

“The ball just didn’t bounce our way,” Lawrence said. “We had a couple of tough calls from the umpires that didn’t help the situation, made those innings last longer than they should have.”

Royal finished the 2023 season with a 24-3 record.

“We have a lot of grit, and I think it really showed a lot that the girls were in there until the very end,” Lawrence said. “

A Look a Royal’s 1A State Tournament Run

Getting started with a first-round bye

Entering the 1A State Softball Tournament with a 22-2 record, the Knights earned a No. 2 seed in the tournament which allowed for a first-round bye.

“It’s so important to take the pressure off,” Lawrence said. “Going into double-elimination after that first bye, it’s big. Puts you in a good position going into the bracket.”

Ortega-Sanchez’s walk-off home run

Tied at two in the bottom of the seventh against No. 10 Lynden Christian, juniors Jaya Griffin and Raegan Wardenaar both singled to start the inning with two runners on base. After back-to-back outs, Ortega-Sanchez stepped into the batter’s box looking to avoid going into extra innings.

“I like nervous situations, and all I was thinking was to hit the crap out of the ball,” Ortega-Sanchez said. “Anywhere you can, anywhere it is – hit it hard.”

With two strikes on the board, Ortega-Sanchez hit a fly ball to deep center field, falling beyond the wall and walking-off the game with a three-run home run to give the Knights a 5-2 win over the Lyncs.

The win gave Royal its first win at the 1A state tournament since 2019, having fallen 10-0 to Castle Rock in a first-round loser-out game at the 2022 tournament.

“It feels great,” Ortega-Sanchez said. “We worked hard last year, and we worked hard this year. I think this year, coming out strong like that is good. It’s good to start off strong.”

Allred recorded nine strikeouts and surrendered only one hit over six innings pitched as a relief pitcher.

“I tried not to feel nervous,” Allred said.

Late runs send Knights to championship

Down 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning to No. 3 Hoquiam, Royal senior Addison Lawrence’s sacrifice-fly sent home Wardenaar to tie the game at one. Wardenaar got on base on a single earlier in the inning, then advanced to third base after reaching second on a passed ball and stealing third.

“I was so ready, and I wanted to tie the game,” Wardenaar said. “There was two passed balls, I was running so fast.”

Once the Grizzlies were unable to score in the top of the sixth, junior Randi Allred started the bottom of the sixth with a base hit that sparked the next five Knight batters to get on base.

“I knew we could all hit the ball, and as soon as I did I went straight back into the dugout and told everybody to get their energy up,” Randi Allred said. “Everyone did, and we started hitting – just like we normally do.”

By the end of the sixth inning, Royal had totaled four runs en route to its 5-1 win over Hoquiam.

“That’s the hope, that you find a way to get it done,” Lisa Lawrence said. “It took us a few innings to get it together in both games, but it’s exciting to pull one out at the very end.”

The win advanced the Knights to the 1A state championship game against Montesano. It was Royal’s first title softball game appearance since 1999, where they defeated Okanogan 26-15 to cap off a three-year state title run in slowpitch.

“This is what we’ve been working for all year, so to make it to the state championship is exactly where we want to be,” Lawrence said.

Box Scores

vs. Lynden Christian

LYC: 2-0-0-0-0-0-0 2

ROY: 0-0-2-0-0-0-3 5

vs. Hoquiam

HOQ: 0-0-1-0-0-0-0 1

ROY: 0-0-0-0-1-4-X 5

vs. Montesano

MON: 0-0-4-0-4-0-0 8

ROY: 1-0-0-0-1-0-0 2



Royal junior Raegan Wardenaar stands in the batter’s box against No. 10 Lynden Christian on Friday.



Royal junior Jaya Griffin looks toward the Montesano pitcher during the 1A state championship game on Saturday.



Royal freshman Taylor Webb runs to third base against Montesano during Saturday’s 1A state championship game.



Royal senior Madison Ortega-Sanchez pitches during the top of the first inning against Montesano in the 1A state championship game.

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