T-Birds Score 5 Late, Get Back On Track at Rochester


ROCHESTER — The early returns on the defending state champions have been mixed, with the Tumwater softball team yet to get its head above the .500 mark early in the season. The T-Birds came in with a young ace and a few question marks in the order, and through two weeks, those questions had yet to be fully answered.

Wednesday, a few solutions might have begun to emerge, as the Thunderbirds came back late for a gritty 5-3 win over a tough Rochester side, on the road in 2A EvCo play.

“I think that’s the thing, is that we’re trying to figure out our identity this year,” Tumwater coach Ashley Lupinski said. “Last year, we were much more of a power-hitting team, and I think sometimes we have to carry that into the next year. But we’re just a different team. We are going to be base-to-base sometimes, bunting the ball, small-ball. And hopefully every once in awhile Kylie (Waltermeyer) can come up and hit a home run.”

Tumwater had both happen Wednesday, though it needed to fall into a late hole first. Rochester took the lead on a Kaylei Clark double in the bottom of the fourth, breaking a scoreless deadlock and putting the T-Birds nine outs away from their third league loss.

In the sixth, they finally got it going, and did so on the small-ball route. Erika Schock got it started, taking a pitch off the knee to get on base and flip the lineup over. A batter later, she beat out a fielder’s choice to advance to second, and subsequently beat out another one to take third, loading the bases with one out. 

Megan Paull brought one run in on a grounder, Chloe Foos blooped the first hit of the frame to score a second, and Megan Barrett smacked a double to drive in a third.

“It’s the little things,” Rochester coach Joni Lancaster said. “Routine plays that we should have (made) and been out of that inning up, and the score is a different story. It’s kind of where we were last year. We would let one trickle into another, trickle into another, trickle to another.”

The next inning, the T-Birds took Lupinksi’s second desired path. Schock got hit by another pitch, and while Rochester’s Layna Demers got Ella Ferguson to chase a riser at her eyes for a strikeout, she couldn’t pull the trick off twice in a row, and Kylie Waltermeyer lasered a two-run home run to make it 5-1.

“I think we knew that’s what was coming, and that’s what she was hunting,” Lupinski said. “She got it, and took a good, hard whack at it.”

It’s the first time in league play that the Tumwater offense has put runs up in back-to-back innings. And it was more than enough for Ferguson in the circle.

The sophomore finished with 10 strikeouts, allowing just four hits and one earned run. The Warriors made a point of slowing their at-bats down as much as possible — trying to get the famously fast-paced fireballer off her rhythm — but after Rochester got its one run, Ferguson clamped down and let Tumwater’s bats take over.

“She’s very well aware that she works fast, and she knows that teams are going to try to slow her down,” Lupinski said. “We really talk a lot about how if that happens, take the walk to the back of the circle, come back to the mound, and do your thing… and I think she did a good job today. She knew which pitches she wanted to throw, and she hit her spots really well.”

On the other side of things, Demers gave up five hits and a walk, while striking out six. Jessa Lenzi went 2 for 4 for the Warriors to lead the way at the top of the lineup.

Tumwater will get one more game before spring break, taking on Prairie on Friday. Rochester is set for a bit off, returning to play April 10 against Pe Ell-Willapa Valley.