After qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2000 last season, but being unable to make the trip to Selah because of the COVID-19 shortened rules, Rochester made sure to leave no doubt Friday at Recreation Park in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest against Aberdeen.
Playing against their league rivals in a third-place contest in the 2A District 4 tournament, the Warriors put six runs on the board in the first and never looked back in a 10-4 victory over the Bobcats.
After qualifying for state last spring, the Warriors finally get to make the coveted trip to Selah as one of the top-16 squads in the state next weekend.
“The second I stepped into the batting cages at 6 a.m. before the season started I said, ‘We have one goal. We all have the same goal here,’ and that was to get to the state tournament,” Warriors coach Joni Lancaster said. “And we did. Put in the work, and we made it.”
It’s the Warriors' second-ever trip to the state tournament after earning a fourth-place finish in the 2000 season, years before most Warriors on the roster were even born.
Rochester managed to get past R.A. Long before a defeat to Tumwater in the district semifinals Thursday night, and brought its bats right out of the gate in the first inning of its game against the Bobcats.
The Warriors batted around against Aberdeen starter Lilly Camp, with Jessa Lenzi, Kassidy Byrd, Roisin Stull, and Sadie Knutson all knocking in runs in the first to take a commanding 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Though the Bobcats threatened with four runs in the final two innings, the damage had already been done, and the Warriors walked off the field with more games left to play next weekend.
“We jumped on her early,” Lancaster said of the Warriors’ performance against Camp. “She’s a good pitcher, she has a lot of speed. We’ve been gearing up for that all week, we knew what she was coming with right off the bat and we just jumped on it.”
All the while, the Warriors had a strong day in the circle, especially from starter Lakota Escott. The senior threw four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out a batter in a dominant performance. Layna Demers relieved Escott for three innings, giving up four runs on five hits with four strikeouts.
“She did a great job, we’ve been focusing on getting her spins going, because when she can get those going as a lefty, she’s almost untouchable,” Lancaster said. “She was feeling it, she wanted the ball in her hands as a senior so we gave it to her.”
Now the Warriors will await their postseason fate, when the WIAA seeding committees decide who will play who in Selah next Friday and Saturday.
For a squad that hasn’t played in Selah of late, and will be making their first trip in awhile, Lancaster says the focus won’t change when they arrive.
“Anything can happen there, it’s the best 16 teams in the state,” she said. “Weird things can happen. We’ve just got to come ready to go and expect to battle every single game. One at a time.”