Prep softball: Bearcats complete revenge tour with state berth


From the opening jamboree at Recreation Park two months ago, the W.F. West High School softball team had the mentality to return to the Class 2A state tournament.

Even as head coach Kevin Zylstra echoed those sentiments, there was a moment where he wasn’t 100 percent sure.

“How are we going to do this?” Zylstra said. “District is so loaded. Got all these freshmen and how are they going to handle it?”

Then came the 8-0 victory over Tumwater on April 22 at home. It was a win that kept the Bearcats in line for a top finish in the Evergreen Conference and they were able to score multiple runs off ace Ella Ferguson.

That proved to be the moment where Zylstra started to get back to his original line of thinking.

“I saw the fire,” he said.

The motto was “unfinished business.” W.F. West can now claim its business is taken care of.

Ignited by a complete game gem from freshman Taylor Tobin and early offense, the Bearcats triumphed over EvCo rival Rochester 6-1 in a Class 2A District 4 semifinal on Thursday night at Rec Park to clinch a state berth.

Once the final out was made, W.F. West’s dugout spilled out for a celebration that was a 362-day build up. It will be the 20th trip to Carlon Park in Saleh over the last 21 years.

It will face Aberdeen, a team it split with in the regular season, in the district title game on Friday night.

“I am so unbelievably proud of us,” shortstop Avalon Myers said. “We doubled down on practice and it has paid off. It’s awesome. We all knew we were going to work extra hard to make it back to state.”

The only loss the Bearcats (16-5) have suffered was the second league contest against Aberdeen. They have controlled their last eight wins from start to finish, just one that was a less than a five-run final.

It has resulted in a different postseason atmosphere. They had to win a pigtail just to get into the quarterfinals, then lost in the semifinals and the elimination game.

“We all wanted it so much more,” Tobin stated.

Tobin worked around seven hits in the win. The right-hander stranded at least two Warriors runners on base in the second, third and seventh innings.

Six strikeouts and defensive plays behind her kept Rochester (12-13) off the scoreboard for the majority of the contest.

“Once I got in the game, I was locked in,” Tobin said. “My teammates had my back and I didn’t need to be nervous about anything. We all wanted to win this so bad.”

Coaches and teammates sung her praise afterwards.

“She has gotten so confident in herself,” Myers said.

“Once she found her rise ball, it totally changed the game,” Zylstra added. “We were no longer two-dimensional, we were now three-dimensional calling pitches.”

The other Tobin sister – Tanner – delivered the final blow in a four-run top of the first with a two-run double. Staysha Fluetsch and Ella Young registered RBIs in the frame.

An RBI groundout and another run scoring on an error in the sixth gave W.F. West needed insurance.

“It was important,” Myers said. “Once you get that momentum starting, it keeps going.”

Myers roped two doubles in the Bearcats 12-4 quarterfinal win over Columbia River. Of their 13 hits, six went for extra bases. Addie Froscahuer knocked in four runs, Young registered three hits and Myers plus Lena Fragner recorded two hits.

After Monroe Dalrymple stranded the bases loaded in the top of the first, W.F. West answered with two in the bottom half. It added two more in the second and broke the game open with a five-spot in the third.

Dalrymple ended with 15 strikeouts in the circle, tossing all seven innings.

“Gave up three dingers, but I didn’t care,” Zylstra said. “They can hit it into the streets. (Monroe) set the tone.”

Rochester had chances against the Bearcats, but couldn’t muster the timely hit. They were dealt in by four errors and the lone run came in the final frame on an RBI single by Macey Fleutsch.

It proved to be a case of too little, too late. It left nine runners on base.

“When you have those two things together, it is almost impossible to win,” Warriors head coach Joni Lancaster said. “This setting, it comes down to nerves. We’ve got a lot of girls that haven’t been close to this stage.”

The quarterfinal outcome sung a much different tune. Ace Layna Demers fired 15 strikeouts to aid Rochester to a 6-3 verdict over the regular season GSHL champions Mark Morris.

The right-hander gave up five hits plus two walks and even as the Monarchs mounted a rally in the seventh, Demers shut the door with a game-ending strikeout.

“She was lights out,” Lancaster said. “She’s faced a lot tougher lineups this year. Loss of words with that performance.”

Cheyenne Justice turned a 2-0 lead into 5-0 with a bases-clearing triple as part of a four-run top of the sixth. Mckenna Vassar kicked off the scoring with an RBI triple in the third. Those two combined for five of the Warriors’ eight hits.

Vassar had three hits versus W.F. West and Fluetsch notched two.

Rochester, already with two season-extending games under its belt, will play one more on Friday against Ridgfield in a winner to state contest.

“They’re hungry and they know what is on the line,” Lancaster said. “We’ll figure out a way to be where we want to be. We just gotta grab it.”