Panthers sink their teeth into districts

Softball team finishes one win away from state

The Washougal High School softball team played to the last out on the final day of the district tournament and finished in fourth place.

How the Panthers got there is something these girls and coaches will never forget.

First, Washougal had to win a play-in game against a Rochester team that had won 17 games. The Panthers whipped the Warriors 11-0, in Rochester. Paige Forsberg pitched a 2-hitter and racked up nine strikeouts. Becca Bennett drove in three runs on two hits. Morgan Ratcliff added three hits and an RBI. Courtney Shelley and Kayla Lagerquist also knocked in runs.

After losing 10-0 to R.A. Long in the first round of the district tournament Friday, Washougal defeated Woodland 5-4 on a walk-off two run home run by Lagerquist to stay alive.

“When I rounded second base, I was crying,” Lagerquist said. “We deserved to win that game. We defied the odds.”

“So many of us were crying happy tears,” Shelley said. “You would have thought we just lost, but we were all so happy to make it to the second day.”

The Panthers returned to the field on a rainy Saturday and beat Centralia 12-4. Ratcliff knocked in three runs on four hits, including a home run.

“It felt good to finally hit one out,” Ratcliff said. “I’ve been struggling with the bat all season. It just came alive at the right time.”

Forsberg doubled and drove in two runs. She also struck out 12 Bearcats in seven innings pitched.

“It’s easier to pitch verses teams who haven’t seen you before,” Forsberg said. “I just wanted to win for the seniors. Just one more inning. Just one more game. That’s what we were all saying.”

Tumwater defeated Washougal 7-4 in the consolation finals to earn the final spot into the state tournament.

The Panthers scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning to tie the score, and then took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth. What happened in the top of the seventh inning is something these girls and coaches will ever be able to forget.

Tumwater had the tying run on third base with one out. The next batter hit a ground ball to Ratcliff. She looked the runner back to third base, then threw to first, but it was not in time. Bennett kept her eye on the runner at third, while the runner at first decided to take off for second base. Bennett got the ball to Shelley and she tagged the runner for the second out. She then saw the runner from third breaking for home plate. She fired a bull’s-eye to the catcher. The runner slid right into her glove, but the home plate umpire called her safe.

“It was chaos, but we were so controlled, and we did it so well,” Bennett said.

“I keep replaying that play in my mind over and over again,” Shelley said. “That should have been the last out. That was our in to state.”

Instead, the score was tied. Tumwater got two more runners on base and then hit a 3-run home run to open the flood gates.

Head coach John Carver said he will never forget the last stand these girls made to try and reclaim the lead after they were down. The Panthers got two runners on and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs. They just couldn’t get the hit they needed to get even.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that these girls left their heart on the field for the Panther family,” he said.

This was the best finish for the Washougal softball program since the last time the Panthers reached the state tournament in 2005.

“These girls reminded me of the teams on that wall. They were fearless,” said assistant coach Heather Carver. “We came out of this thing as the second best team in our league fighting for that last spot. It was an incredible year.”