Mountaineers ride sizzling bats to blowout win over Ducks

Productive second, sixth inning propels Rainier


The Rainier High School softball team is heating up as the regular season comes to a close and hopes of a deep postseason run grow stronger. In their senior day game and final regular season contest, the Mountaineers cruised past Toutle Lake, 15-5, in six innings on Thursday, May 9, to win their third straight game.

Head coach Katie Qualls’ team responded after a three-game skid in which they were outscored 39-5 and put 43 runs on the board in their final three games.

The Mountaineers quickly got to work against the Ducks as Brooklynn Swenson, who was recently named a WIAA Athlete of the Week, doubled to advance Olivia Earsley to third before Keira Anderson drove them both in with a double in the first inning.

After a Toutle Lake triple that scored on an infield error cut the lead to 2-1 in the second inning, the Mountaineers answered with four runs in the frame, including RBI doubles by Swenson, Anderson and Ryleigh Cruse as well as an RBI single by Gracie Lantz.

More infield errors in the third inning helped Toutle Lake inch closer, 6-3. By the third, the Ducks had two batters reach home plate due to Rainier’s defensive mistakes.

“We have just really been impressing upon them that if you’re still going to make mistakes in the field, we have just gotta keep hitting,” Qualls said. “We have to be an offensive powerhouse, and we have.”

Rainier padded its lead after Raychel Hansen broke out of her 3-for-20 slump with an RBI double to score Earsley. After Lantz was injured sliding to second base in the second inning, she returned and drove in her second RBI of the game in the fourth to make it 8-3.

“We have expected better from her because we know she has it in her, and we kept telling her to make those little adjustments when she’s up there,” Qualls said of Lantz. “I told her today to have fun and find some grass, and she really did. She really powered through.”

Toutle Lake scored a run in the fifth, but each time the Ducks crept closer, the Mountaineers increased their lead. Anderson cranked a two-run home run to left field to give Rainier a 10-4 lead and to give her five RBIs for the day.

In the sixth, the Mountaineers emphatically responded to the Ducks’ fifth run with five more tallies to the scoreboard. Earsley scored for the third time after Hansen doubled her home, and Swenson and Cruse each drove in a pair of runs. All five of the Mountaineers’ sixth-inning runs came with two outs.

“They just kept chipping away, especially with two outs. No matter who it was, everybody showed up today,” Qualls said.

Swenson, Qualls’ daughter, fueled the Mountaineers offensive attack once again with four hits, three RBIs and four runs. Swenson was one of six Mountaineers to record multiple hits and one of five to drive in multiple runs. Over Rainier’s three-game winning streak, the junior is batting 10-of-14 at the plate with 14 RBIs, three home runs and two doubles. After one of her four hits on Thursday, the Ducks catcher exclaimed, “She just hits everything!”

“She had a really good year last year, but I think she’s just more determined this year. She’s really relaxed. She has only struck out twice this year and only had four last year,” Qualls said. “She’s smart up there and that’s what makes her dangerous.”

The Mountaineers (11-8, 6-3 Central 2B League) were scheduled to finish the regular season with a doubleheader against Winlock on Friday, May 10, but the Cardinals forfeited both games. Due to this schedule change, Thursday’s win over Toutle Lake ended up being the final home game for Rainier’s seniors: Earsley, Hansen and Rooh Osborne. The team honored its three seniors with a speech from their head coach and balloons.

“Olivia is a team leader. She has been even before I coached. She really brings confidence, knowledge and competitiveness to the team,” Qualls said. “Raychel, if you’re listening on the field, she’s always talking. She communicates so well with everyone, and she’s also a great leader. Her smile and enthusiasm are a bonus to the team. Rooh doesn’t have the experience that the other girls do, but you would never tell by the way she’s always cheering her team on. She is the biggest advocate and cheerleader for this team. They’re all going to be missed a lot.”

Rainier will wait for its postseason fate but is looking at a top four seed in the district tournament, which would begin with a loser-out game on Monday.