State Softball: Rochester runs out of fumes, ends season in consolation round


SELAH – Forty-five minutes from Selah was the Rochester High School softball team’s home base this week. It arrived at Carlon Park around 7:30 Friday morning for one of the first Class 2A quarterfinal games.

The Warriors pulled an all-day outing in Selah, but left in a bout of sadness.

Twelfth-seeded Lynden took advantage of seven Rochester errors and cruised to a 12-5 victory in the consolation round that ended the Warriors season three wins shy of placing inside the top-four.

“We didn’t bring our best stuff today,” Rochester head coach Joni Lancaster said. “We were a little flat in that last one. I didn’t want our mindset to be ‘Oh, we got here. Yay let’s mess around.’ We weren’t too happy with the seeding, so I said ‘Let’s show them, let’s make a statement’ and we almost did.

“Things didn’t go our way.”

It was the finale of a season that ended with a 14-15 record and plenty of late-season heroics. The Warriors needed to win a tiebreaker game against Centralia to nab the fourth and final spot in the District 4 tournament out of the Evergreen Conference.

They prevailed in the pigtail round to get into the double elimination, then triumphed over top-seeded Mark Morris in the quarterfinals. Rochester beat returning 2A runner-up Ridgefield in a state-clinching victory.

“We did a really good job fighting back, but everyone’s energy was good and everyone was happy with each other,” leadoff hitter Cheyenne Justice said. “That’s what made us so good.”

Three games in a 13-hour day took its toll on the Warriors.

Lynden vanquished its second EvCo program behind late runs – three in the fifth to break the game open slightly – then added four in the sixth and two in the seventh. Even with a three-run bottom half, the gap was too big for the Warriors.

“We ran out of gas,” Lancaster said. “We were drained after playing two games at districts. Three games here with this high of intensity, everything that comes along with traveling.”

Rochester nearly pulled off the upset of the night, rallying to get within striking distance of defending 2A champion North Kitsap, but leaving the tying run at the plate with zero, one and two outs.

The Warriors stared at a six-run deficit and whittled down to two behind two straight bases loaded walks, then Arissa LeBaron poked through a run-scoring single and Emily Beasley hit into an RBI groundout.

The late momentum powered through to defeat seventh-seeded Clarkston 8-5 in their first consolation game.

“We knew just getting the lead earlier in the game would help us out,” Justice said.

It was a back-and-forth contest for the first four innings. Justice, a traditional slap hitter, broke the 4-4 tie in the fourth with a leadoff home run. It was her first long ball of the season and her prep career.

It ignited two more runs – one on a sacrifice fly and another on an RBI groundout – to build a three-run cushion.

“Joni asked if I wanted to bunt, so I had to prove to her that I didn’t want to bunt,” Justice said with a laugh.

Mckenna Vassar had eight hits in the three games while Justice registered seven. Layna Demers pitched all 21 innings and threw a total 17 strikeouts. Just two seniors, Macey Fluetsch and Sara Haury, will graduate.

That leaves the majority of the core intact for 2025 and Lancaster is not shying away from early goals.

“Our goals next year are championships,” she said. “Looking forward to it.”

Justice feels those expectations are appropriate.

“Just being more aggressive overall,” Justice said. “People were scared to fail. I think next year, we’ll be better.”