Coming up in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 1-1 game against Prairie on May 18, Riley Jornlin stayed focused and determined. The Wilson senior shortstop had been 0-for-3 to that point but delivered in the clutch, driving a walk-off single to score Julie Davis and punch the Rams’ ticket to the state tournament on their way to winning the 3A district title the next day.
“I hadn’t been hitting all game, and I finally got in my zone and did what I know how to do and it felt so good. It was crazy,” Jornlin said. “I just needed to let the ball get deeper, and I knew I’d be right on it if I let it get deep.”
Rams ace Janessa Flynn was entangled in a pitcher’s duel with Falcons sophomore Jasmine Cox, with Wilson hitters making good contact much of the game only to be denied by a solid Prairie defense.
“We were hitting the ball all game,” said Wilson head coach Ron Balmer. “They’re making backhand plays down the line, catches in the outfield going away. They made every play, it was a great game…we finally got one to go down where we needed it to.”
Flynn, meanwhile, escaped a couple jams, including striking out the Falcons’ Amanda Martin with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth in a scoreless game.
“She has a great knack for controlling the game with pitches in and out,” Balmer said. “When she gets in trouble she buckles down and hits her spots. That’s what a senior pitcher should do.”
Taylor Clark got the Rams on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a booming solo homer – a towering blast that cleared the left field fence and landed about 300 feet away. But the Falcons tied it when Chelsea Creech led off the sixth with a double and later scored on a groundout by Jessica McDonald. The Rams had a chance for a walk-off win in the seventh when Clark led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice by Darian Grimm, but Cox escaped the threat with two groundouts. Wilson then capitalized the next inning when Davis led off with a single and moved to second on Kaysha Fox’s sacrifice, setting the stage for Jornlin.
“She puts the ball in play,” said Balmer of Jornlin. “All year long she’s been really patient at the plate and hits it where it’s pitched. I had a feeling she was going to do that right there.”
Alex Flynn pitched the Rams to a 3-2 win over Peninsula in the semifinals on May 19, and Janessa Flynn capped the weekend in a 7-4 win over Camas for the district title and a number-one seed to state. The Rams open with a game against University High School on May 25 at 9 a.m. at the Regional Athletic Center in Lacey.
“There’s six seniors, and it means the world to us,” said Jornlin of the Rams’ second-straight state berth. “We’re going to do it big this year.”
With the way games have been going lately for Bellarmine, head coach Craig Coovert has become confident in his girls’ ability to make something happen late. That proved true again in the Lions’ district opener on May 18, as senior Kelly McLaughlin’s opposite-field single in the bottom of the sixth scored Rachel Sorensen to put them up 2-1, and Bellarmine added two more runs in the inning for a 4-1 win over Spanaway Lake.
“These girls, they keep putting pressure on you, keep finding ways to get on base and eventually they find a way to break through,” Coovert said. “Kind of just par for the course for this team so far this year.”
The Lions threatened early, getting runners on second and third in the bottom of the first, but Spanaway Lake starter Michele Kenner escaped the inning by striking out Alex DeStephano. Kenner then got three straight outs in the second after allowing the first two runners on in the second.
“She’s a really good pitcher, a strong pitcher,” said Coovert. “We were getting a lot of runners on base, but we just couldn’t find that hit.”
Haley Dusek gave Bellarmine a 1-0 lead in the third by driving an inside-the-park homer to right center, but the Sentinels quickly responded. After Bellarmine pitcher Courtney Schwan had retired the first 11 batters of the game, Kenner singled, advanced to second and scored on a single by Janae Haslett to tie the game. Those were the only hits Schwan allowed in the contest, as she retired 10 of the next 12 batters to give the Lions’ offense a chance in the sixth.
Alexis Mendez was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning and Sorenson, running for Mendez, scored when McLaughlin’s single got away from the left fielder.
“It was amazing. The whole game I was really frustrated with myself, I was 0-for-3 at that point,” McLaughlin said. “The whole time I was like, ‘I really want to hit. I’m going to hit.’ I just made contact and it felt really good.”
McLaughlin and Ostrander scored on a throwing error by shortstop Raelin Goodwin two batters later, and Schwan shut down the Sentinels in the seventh for the win.
The Lions jumped all over Kentwood early in their second game, scoring six runs in the first three innings to cruise to a 7-1 win and punch their ticket to the state tournament. Schwan got the Lions started by booming a two-run homer to left center in the first, McLaughlin and Ostrander had RBIs in the second and Rebecca Sorenson added a run-scoring single in the third. Dusek added a run-scoring double in the sixth, and Schwan allowed just one run on four hits on the mound.
Coming back from a 6-0 deficit, the Lions rallied to beat Emerald Ridge 10-6 in the opener on May 19, and held a 5-3 lead late before falling in the finals to Rogers later in the day. Despite the loss in the final, the Lions carry a ton of momentum into the state tournament.
“The past four years I’ve played, this is the closest we’ve ever been,” McLaughlin said. “Just being so close and being there for each other is what makes us come through, and makes us come together and really win these games for each other.”
The Lions travel to Spokane and face an opening matchup against Bothell on May 25 at 10 a.m. at Merkel Field.