The Bearcats have won enough tight games to know how to keep their cool.
So when the outlook on Friday’s 2A District 4 softball tournament title game took a turn for the worse — namely, when Tumwater’s Jaylene Manriquez smashed a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie — they didn’t fall apart.
Instead, W.F. West slowly took the momentum back. The Bearcats got big hits from Brielle Etter and Avalon Myers to score all four of their runs with two outs in the top of the seventh and repeat as district champions in a 4-2 win at Rec Park in Chehalis.
“I knew we were going to be able to pull it out,” noted Bearcat first baseman Savannah Hawkins, who went 3 for 3 in the win. “We always do good in pressure situations. I knew we were going to be able to get our outs, and then be able to go hit.”
The solid at-bats had been there all game for the Bearcats, even if the runs had not. Tumwater pitcher Ella Ferguson carried a shutout into the seventh inning and had two outs with runners on second and third before Etter tied things up with a two-run single.
“I didn’t look at any of our at-bats throughout the game and think, ‘Man, that was a bad at-bat,’” Bearcat coach Caty Lieseke said. “I think we just found some spots and got a little hot, and moved the runners along.”
After Etter’s single the T-Birds elected to intentionally walk Hawkins, who was 3 for 3 at that point.
“It’s a great compliment, sometimes,” Hawkins said, noting that it was the second time this season Tumwater had declined to pitch to her. “I knew the moment I got on and everything, with the close situation, that runner was going to score — and I knew I was going to run my butt off so I could score, too.”
Hawkins did, of course, score, on the go-ahead two-run single from Myers two batters later.
“It was definitely a great game,” Hawkins said. “Kamy (Dacus) was pitching amazing and we were putting people in position, which was great. We just couldn't get the runs until the last inning.”
Dacus, the Bearcats’ senior ace, had another strong outing. The righthander struck out six, walked just one, and faced the minimum in four innings.
“Kamy threw a great game, as usual, and just brought what she had,” Leiseke said.
That included the final frame, when Dacus got three quick ground-outs to put the game away.
On the other side of the field, Ferguson finished with nine strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. W.F. West only threatened once through the first six innings, putting two runners on with no outs in the fourth but coming up empty-handed.
“She throws a great game,” Lieseke said. “They’re a fierce opponent and she’s a fierce competitor. There’s always a chance we see them next week, and we’ve got to come ready to play.”
It was the fourth meeting between the teams this season. Tumwater won two of the first three and won the 2A Evergreen Conference regular season crown, ending a streak of Bearcat league titles.
Both teams now advance to the 2A state championships Friday and Saturday at Selah’s Carlon Park — the first state tournament since 2019.
“It’s real exciting to be going back, just for the sense of it happening,” Lieseke said. “This is what you want to walk into and out of, into state — is off a win and off a good game.”
The Bearcats (19-4) and Thunderbirds (18-2) now await the outcome of this weekend’s WIAA seeding committee meeting to learn their first round state opponents.
“We’ve faced some really good competition all season,” Lieseke said. “It’s set us up to be right where we want to be heading into next week.”
Notes: Stayshia Fluetsch went 2 for 3 with a double for the Bearcats, while Rachel Gray was also 2 for 3. Aly Waltermeyer doubled to lead off the sixth inning for Tumwater and scored on Manriquez’ home run. … All three of the teams’ regular-season games were close. Tumwater won games 2-1 and 3-1 in Tumwater, while W.F. West won 5-3 in Chehalis.