Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Success on the diamond

Sports Reporter | July 10, 2024 3:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — After leaving the 2023 1A State Softball Tournament with a second-place finish, the Royal Knights had high aspirations for this year’s edition of the tournament.

Royal softball head coach Lisa Lawrence joined the STUDIO BASIN podcast last week to discuss the Knights claiming the 1A softball title in May.

“We had a great team last year, and taking second definitely felt good, but second place always feels sore there for a bit,” Lawrence said. “... Going into the season we lost a few seniors — really strong players — gained a few new players and just thought, ‘We’ll take it game by game and see what we can do.’”

The Knights began the 2024 campaign with an 8-1 record, with the lone loss coming in a doubleheader split against Eastmont. Royal’s average margin of victory was 10 runs in their first eight wins.

“We had some success early on with some hard teams, and I think just coming off that second place (finish) last year, there was a lot of confidence there,” Lawrence said. “We viewed ourselves as one of the best teams in the state, and (wanted to) see what we can do with the season.”

After sweeping Zillah in an April 9 doubleheader, the Knights slipped into a losing skid, falling in six of their next eight games. Three of the five teams they lost to — Montesano, Mount Baker and Warden — all reached their respective state tournaments, while Colville and Chiawana both finished the 2024 season with 14 and 17 wins, respectively.

The losses against strong competition didn’t discourage the Knights, Lawrence said. 

“I think the girls took this stance that we wanted to learn as we went — we didn’t want to worry so much about the record, we wanted to play those good teams because that’s what we’re going to see when we got to state,” she said. 

Royal finished the regular season with back-to-back sweeps of Wahluke and Kiona-Benton, the latter of which locked up the South Central Athletic Conference league title.

“Going into the postseason with all those wins was good for momentum, for sure,” Lawrence said. 

After defeating Wahluke 17-0 in the first round of the SCAC district tournament, the Knights fell 9-8 to Kiona-Benton in the district semifinals on May 18, dropping into the consolation bracket that required three straight wins on the same day to lock up a state berth. 

After playing four games in one day — the loss to Kiona-Benton, a 12-2 win against Naches Valley, a 3-1 win over Connell and a 10-6 win against Kiona-Benton — the Knights were on to the 1A State Softball Tournament.

“That was not the path that we had hoped to take at districts,” Lawrence joked.

Following a 10-0 win over No. 9 Klahowya in the opening round of the state tournament, No. 8 seed Royal advanced to take on top-seeded Montesano in the state quarterfinals, winning the game thanks to a three-run top of the seventh inning. 

“I think the girls were nearly as excited winning that game as they were winning the whole state championship,” Lawrence said. 

After besting No. 4 Cedar Park Christian 6-4 in the state semifinals, Royal hoisted the state championship trophy with a 16-4 win against No. 6 Seton Catholic. In the title game. Royal scored 16 runs off 15 hits with six batters recording multiple hits.

“Batters sometimes see the ball big, and I think every pitch looked big — the girls had a lot of confidence, and that just rolled through inning after inning,” Lawrence said. “It was fun to see. Close games are fun and they feel good too, but running away with a state championship game feels good as well.”

This season was Royal’s first time winning a state championship in fastpitch softball. The Knights won nine titles in slowpitch softball in the '80s and '90s.

“When the schools in the state started moving to fastpitch, Royal was the last of the schools to move because we’d been so dominant in slowpitch,” Lawrence said. “It took a while to rebuild and get that fastpitch experience — the knowledge and the skills — so I think there was a lot of nostalgia over bringing back these successful softball teams.”

Bringing home a state championship has sparked interest in softball in the local community, Lawrence said. 

“The community’s really excited about what we've got going,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got more and more girls turning out for high school and middle school (softball), we’ve got more girls playing travel ball now and doing extra. I think people are really excited about the softball program.”

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

Give us a listen: 

Check out the STUDIO BASIN podcast to hear more from Lawrence on Royal softball’s 2024 season. The STUDIO BASIN podcast can be found on your favorite podcast apps, or downloaded directly at https://bit.ly/4eVdrMv.

    Royal junior Audrey Bergeson rushes to beat the ball thrown to first base during the 1A State Softball Tournament semifinals against Cedar Park Christian.
    Royal opened the state tournament in a loser-out game against Klahowya, winning 10-0. Head Coach Lisa Lawrence said there was a difference in experience this year compared to the Knights’ loss in the loser-out round in 2022.