WHS slowpitch secures state tournament berth

Washougal High School sophomore Peyton Robb swings at a pitch during the Panthers' 9-5 win over Mark Morris High School on Oct. 23.

Washougal High School sophomore Peyton Robb swings at a pitch during the Panthers' 9-5 win over Mark Morris High School on Oct. 23. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School senior Elaina Tauialo continued her consistant play during the District 4 slowpitch softball tournament. The Panthers earned a trip to the 2A/3A state tournament with a victory over Kelso High School on Oct. 24. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School junior Ciarrah Pillar connects for a hit during the Panthers' District 4 tournament game against Mark Morris High School. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School slowpitch softall coach John Carver gives his team some motivation during the Panthers' District 4 tournament game against Mark Morris High School. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

Washougal High School freshman Chloe Johnson high-fives a coach after using her speed to reach first base during the Panthers' 9-5 win over Mark Morris High School on Oct. 23. (Wayne Havrelly/Post-Record)

It’s been a dream season for Washougal High School (WHS) slowpitch softball team, which has celebrated tremendous success during the program’s first season in the 2A ranks.

The Panthers clinched a berth to the 2A/3A state tournament with a 5-1 win over Kelso High School in a District 4 playoff game on Thursday, Oct. 24. That victory advanced WHS to the district tournament championship game against R.A. Long High School, which beat the Panthers 8-7.

“I’m just so glad the school put this team together,” senior captain Audrey Thompson said. “We came in here feeling good and ready to play. This is so much fun. I just love it.”

The Panthers (14-9 overall), who beat Mark Morris High School (MMHS) 9-5 in a first-round district tournament game on Wednesday, Oct. 23, will open state tournament play against Chief Sealth High School on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima, Washington.

“All these girls have worked so hard to prepare,” said WHS coach John Carver. “The girls have believed in each other to accomplish the success we have had this season. We are going to Yakima hungry for two things — wins, and of course Miner burgers.”

Hard pitch by seniors leads to slowpitch team

For team captains Thompson and Elaina Tauialo, advancing to the state tournament is a dream come true. After suffering through a difficult fastpitch season last spring, Thompson and Tauialo made a pitch to WHS associate principal and athletic director Gary McGarvie to create a slowpitch softball program.

“They pitched it pretty hard and I’m glad they did,” McGarvie said while watching the Panthers beat the Monarchs Oct. 23.

“We started this season really excited and wanted to win because our last fastpitch season was not good,” Tauialo said, “but we knew we had the heart to win, so I’m glad we could prove that.”

Thompson and Tauialo have been playing sports together since they were 10 years old.

“I remember the first practice I had with Audrey and she was wearing mis-matched socks and we instantly became friends,” Tauialo said, “and ever since we’ve always played softball together. We also played volleyball and basketball together.”

Carver said the bond between his two captains rubs off on the entire team.

“They are absolutely exceptional leaders that both the players and the coaches will rally around as we head to Yakima for the state championships,” he said.

As the team prepares for the state tournament, players are working to close out games by mentally preparing for clutch situations.

“We’re going to focus on staying focused because when we get unfocused that’s when things get a little shaky,” Thompson said.

The Panthers took a 9-0 lead over MMHS, but allowed the Monarchs to score five runs in the final inning before getting the third out.

In the district championship game, the Panthers had a 6-4 lead before the Lumberjills scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead and eventually win the championship.

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