SELAH — Tears, hugs and plenty of smiles marked the end of Ellensburg's unexpected postseason run Saturday at Carlon Park.
The Bulldogs won four loser-out games, including three in district play as the No. 4 seed, before finally falling to Rochester 11-3 in the 2A state tournament. Only six teams advanced farther than No. 13 seed Ellensburg, which opened the tournament by winning 1-0 against a Shadle Park team that scored at least eight runs in each its three loser-out games.
"I think Shadle Park truly was a team that could have won this tournament and for us to knock them down in the loser's bracket, first round, was a huge accomplishment," Olin said. "Being able to come out and play that game, that was our state championship game right there."
Well over 300 pitches later, senior Maddie Kennedy picked up her second win against Sequim, thanks to Chante LeaderCharge's eighth-inning home run. Olin handed Kennedy the ball one last time on Saturday, but after a rough second inning coaches decided to shut her down and avoid risking injury before the Yakima Valley College signee plays a busy summer schedule.
She also hit her eighth home run of the postseason and joined five other seniors playing the final game of their high school careers, capping off a 15-13 season. Leadoff hitter Victoria Zimmerman has accepted a scholarship to pursue softball at the next level with Western Oregon, and Olin said her speed should be valuable weapon in Division II.
"If she keeps developing her slapping game, she's going to have a great career," Olin said. "Coming off her arm injury she wasn't 100% on defense, but going to college hopefully it'll get stronger for her."
Another senior, catcher Jami Nelson, completed a full season without ever striking out in nearly 100 at-bats, an accomplishment Olin credited to her "incredible hand-eye coordination." She left the game early to make way for fellow senior catcher Laney Nelson and another senior, Kass Winter, added one more single after going 4-for-4 against Sequim Friday night.
Olin said the seniors facilitated an environment where everyone got along and enjoyed the ride, helping set a standard for a promising group of young players. Sophomore Alexis Gillespie highlighted that group in the postseason and showed why Olin believes she's one of the strongest kids he's ever coached, slugging five home runs and driving in 18 runs.
Freshman Olivia Carlson and Hannah Krogstadt gave a glimpse of what the Bulldogs' pitching might look like in the future, following the departure of Kennedy and fellow senior Lily Case. Olin said he's especially eager to see Carlson fulfill her potential after working with former Central Washington ace Rhaney Harris this offseason.
"She's got a ton of talent, ton of ability," Olin said. "It's just going to be getting innings under her belt and getting used to facing better hitters."
If Carlson or another young pitcher can make that leap, it would go a long way toward helping Ellensburg add to its run of 13 appearances in the last 14 state tournaments.
Ellensburg 101 010 0 — 3 9 3
Rochester 071 111 x — 11 14 0
Kennedy, Carlson (3), Krogstadt (4) and Nelson, Mayer (3). Sadie Knutson, Escott (5) and Fluetsch.
Highlights: Hannah Krogstadt (E) 2-3, 2b, run; Maddie Kennedy (E) 2-3, HR, 2 runs; McKenna Vassar (R) 3-4, 2b, run, 2 RBI; Jessa Lenzi (R) 2-5, 2b, run, 2 RBI; Macey Fluetsch (R) 2-4, run, RBI; Lakota Escott (R) 1-4, HR; Sara Haury 2-4, RBI; Sadie Knutson (R) 3-3, 3 runs, 2 RBI.