Friday, June 14, 2024
52.0°F

Huskies defeat Tigers for CWAC title

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | May 16, 2024 2:00 AM

SELAH – A five-run bottom of the fifth inning helped surge No. 1 seed Othello past No. 3 Ephrata in Tuesday’s Central Washington Athletic Conference district championship game, as the Huskies moved on to the 2A State Softball Tournament with a 12-5 win over the Tigers.

“We had a visualization right before the game, so coming into today it was positive thoughts all day,” Othello junior Emi Pruneda said. “I think one of the biggest things that helped us as a team was lifting up each other and each of us doing our part.”

Ephrata got on the scoreboard first, going up 2-0 in the top of the first inning with a two-run home run by junior Kaydence Hector before Othello got a run back when senior Amarie Guzman scored on an error in the bottom of the same inning. Othello senior Faith Ruelas drove in a run on an RBI single to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning, and the Huskies took the lead for good with a sacrifice fly by senior Miccaela Valdez that sent home junior Kaelee Valdez.

Guzman added another two runs with a two-run home run, and Pruneda scored off a Tiger error to put the Huskies up 6-2.

A positive mentality in the dugout helped erase the early Ephrata lead, said Othello head coach Alyssa Martinez.

“When we’re the home team and they score on us, I’m never concerned; so we have to make sure that they see that we’re confident in them so they can settle in there,” Martinez said. “I know that our bats are there, and I can trust our team to come back. It’s the mental part of the game.”

Othello added three additional runs in the bottom of the third inning with RBI singles from Kaelee Valdez and Miccaela Valdez, as well as freshman Alexa Prochet scoring on a steal of home. Othello also added runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings Tuesday, eventually winning the game 12-5.

Martinez said the Huskies spent their past practices working on bunt coverages.

“Ephrata’s a very good opponent,” Martinez said. “They have a lot of go-getter athletes, so that’s scary when you have athletes that are athletic like that. But all week we’ve been working on our weaknesses, which was bunt coverages. There was one play that was iffy, but I think for the most part I wouldn’t call that a weakness anymore.”

The Tigers committed five errors in Tuesday’s CWAC title game, three of which led to Othello runs.

“Our defense kind of played a little bit of a damper — we didn’t play clean ball, and it’s really hard to stay in a game when you’re not playing a clean ballgame,” Ephrata Head Coach Heather Wood said.

Othello players celebrated by hoisting up the district championship trophy on the third base line, a year after falling to Selah in the same game.

“Coming back from that past year and losing, I feel like that made us super hungry this year,” Pruneda said. “That celebration — I think I can speak for all of us, all that weight just fell off of our shoulders.”

Pruneda led the Huskies in hits, going four-for-four at the plate in the win. Miccaela Valdez and Guzman led Othello with two RBI apiece. 

“She was throwing me a lot of outside (pitches), and that’s one of my weaknesses,” Pruneda said. “... I was just trying to poke it through, and I know my team had my back.”

Hector and Ephrata senior Peyton Trautman both collected two hits in the loss, while Hector drove in three of Ephrata’s five runs.

Ephrata reached the CWAC district championship game by defeating No. 2 seed East Valley (Yakima) 18-14 on the road on Saturday. In a back-and-forth game, the Tigers erased an early 9-4 Red Devil lead to come back and win the game, scoring five runs in the top of the seventh inning to take the lead for good.

“We’re celebrating the little things,” Wood said. “That’s what we did; it was like, we had a rough inning, but we came back and dug deep and persevered. That’s what these guys have, these guys have grit. (Today) we were down 9-2, and we didn’t give up. Sometimes that’s hard to do.”

Ephrata plays East Valley again Saturday in a winner-to-state, loser-out matchup. First pitch is at 11 a.m. in Yakima.

“It’s a new chapter, we talked about that for districts,” Wood said. “It’s a new page in the book, and what we’re doing is we’re writing the end of the book now. We wanted the district championship, now we’ve just got to rewrite the ending.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com

Box score

EPH: 2-0-0-0-2-0-1 5
OTH: 1-5-3-1-1-1-X 12

    Ephrata junior Kaydence Hector celebrates while trotting the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the top of the first inning against Othello on Tuesday. Hector led the Tigers with three RBI.
 
 
    Othello junior Emi Pruneda went four-for-four at the plate in Tuesday’s CWAC district championship game against Ephrata, leading the Huskies with four hits.
 
 
    Ephrata sophomore Lexi Durfee pitches against Othello during Tuesday’s CWAC district championship game.