Mountaineers season ends with shutout loss in districts to Ilwaco

A gem from ace Cruse not enough


The Rainier High School softball team’s recent stretch of offensive firepower was abruptly shushed in the Mountaineers’ season-ending loss to Ilwaco, 2-0, in the opening round of the 2B District 1/4 tournament in Chehalis on Monday, May 13. 

Freshman ace Ryleigh Cruse gave the Mountaineers a prime opportunity to build on its offensive momentum created over their previous three games, all wins. She retired her first eight batters faced, including five by strikeout. Rainier loaded the bases in the first inning with just one out after a pair of walks and a Brooklynn Swenson single, but Cruse grounded into a double play to end the frame.

The Mountaineers again had a runner in scoring position in the third and fifth innings, including a runner on third base in the fifth, but failed to capitalize. Cruse continued to work through the Fishermen batters, striking out the side in the fifth with the score still deadlocked at 0.

“She’s been battling an injury in her elbow,” Rainier head coach Katie Qualls said of Cruse. “With her stamina and her maturity, I think the experience from eighth grade really helped her be where she is today. She’s shown so much promise. She’s been amazing.”

After the Fishermen recorded just four singles through the first five innings, their bats heated up in the sixth off of Cruse. A line drive to Swenson at shortstop was narrowly too high for her to pull down, and with two outs, Ilwaco ratted off an RBI triple into right field and an RBI single into center to take a 2-0 lead. 

Rainier’s offense, a unit that had scored an average of 14.3 runs per game in its last three contests, could not bring its runners home. With two runners aboard and just one out in the sixth, Gracie Lantz and Carolyn Ferguson struck out swinging.

Senior Olivia Earsley, hoping to extend her career, slapped a double with two strikes and two outs in the seventh inning, but fellow senior Raychel Hansen swung through a Megan Dille pitch to close out the game and season. Dille struck out 11 batters while allowing just seven hits and two walks, and Cruse countered with nine strikeouts while giving up 11 hits and two earned runs. The Mountaineers offense finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and only had two baserunners reach third base.

“We’ve had a fire lately on offense, and we still did. We put a lot of runners on, but they just couldn’t move them around. I don’t know where we fell short,” Qualls said.

Rainier’s seniors shared hugs and tears with their teammates after the game. The Mountaineers’ season ended in districts for the second straight season.

“We’ve worked hard this season, and it’s OK to be upset about it. We’re very thankful for our seniors,” Qualls said. “I wanted them to know that it’s OK to be upset, but to remember the memories. 

Rainier finishes with a 12-9 record and a 7-3 mark in Central 2B League play. Earsley, Hansen, and Rooh Osborne graduate, while the rest of the team looks to build on its growth from 2024.

“I was proudest of the growth as a team in general, from the bench to the starters. The way they came together and just decided that they were gonna be more aggressive as a whole, from communicating, cheering each other on, batting, making those plays,” she said. “They’ve just built a really special friendship, and I think that’s kind of hard to do. I’m really proud of them for that.”