Rochester upsets Ridgefield to punch unlikely ticket to state

Warriors go from tiebreaker game to state tournament


Last Friday, the Rochester Warriors were 9-12, and they were set to play a tiebreaker game against Centralia to determine who would qualify for the 2A District 4 pigtail game.

Seven days later, after Rochester won that game, the pigtail, and defeated both of the top two GSHL teams in the district tournament, the Warriors are heading to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons.

“They don’t care what anyone else thinks,” Rochester coach Joni Lancaster said. “They put everything together, they’ve done everything that we’ve been asking all year, they wanted it more than anything, and it showed.”

The Warriors clinched their state berth in dominant fashion on Friday, defeating Ridgefield, the reigning district champion, 8-0.

Rochester wasted little time taking control of the game. After McKenna Vassar scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch, Leah Hartley gave the Warriors (13-13) a two-run lead with an RBI double, and Arissa LeBaron doubled the advantage with a two-run single two batters later.

Layna Demers kept the momentum in the Rochester dugout by retiring three of the first four batters she faced in the bottom of the first.

“It’s so good when you put up the runs in the first inning,” Demers said. “It’s a huge stress relief for me.”

The Warriors gave her more run support in the second, as Hartley drove in another with an RBI single and Demers scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-0.

From there, Demers did her thing in the circle.

One day after pitching Rochester’s quarterfinal and semifinal, the junior posted zero after zero against a Ridgefield offense that scored 10 or more runs in 17 games this season.

“She’s one of the most amazing players I’ve ever seen,” Lancaster said. “No matter what, she’s gonna give me 100 percent. I don’t have to question her ever.”

Demers didn’t record a strikeout, but she didn’t need to. She allowed just three hits in a complete-game shutout.

“I knew we could do it from the very beginning,” Demers said. “We knew we were gonna struggle this year losing our seniors, but we came through in the end when it mattered.”

Both Lancaster and Demers said that while the wins haven’t started piling up until this point in the season, the girls never lost faith in each other, and that paid off in a big way this week.

“I don’t know how many times I said that every single day to love each other, support each other, and play for one another,” Lancaster said. “When you do that, good things happen.

“Sometimes, the most talented team doesn’t win. But when you believe in each other and you want it more for each other than anyone else, then that’s what happens.”

Demers added that more than anything, she and the six juniors on the team wanted to get the two Rochester seniors, Sara Haury and Macey Fluetsch, back to Selah one final time.

“I’m so happy I get to play at least another tournament with them,” Demers said.

The seniors did their part as well. Haury finished with three hits, including a double and an RBI single in the two-run seventh, and Hartley finished with a double and two RBIs.

“We got a lot of girls that have never been there,” Lancaster said. “They didn’t quite know what we were fighting for here. But the ones that did put the others on their back, and they wanted it.”

The Warriors will find out their seed and first-round matchup at the state tournament on Sunday. The 2A Softball State Tournament is set for May 24 and 25 at Carlon Park in Selah.