By MICHAEL BALDWIN
For The Reporter
No matter the circumstances, Kentlake knew it faced adversity in the Class 4A state softball tournament last weekend at South End Recreation Area in Tacoma.
The Falcons wouldn’t have it any other way.
Defending champion Shadle Park of Spokane upended Kentlake in the opening round on Friday, 5-1, putting the Falcons into the consolation bracket.
Kentlake fought its way through three consolation rounds before falling 6-1 to Redmond in the consolation semifinals on Saturday afternoon, capping off a 23-6 season and a tie for fifth at state.
“It was somewhat indicative of our whole year, where we’ve had to come back against adversity,” said coach Greg Kaas. “We proved to ourselves that we can face adversity. We said there are a lot tougher things in life that they’ve got to face than this.”
Shadle Park pitcher Sam Skillingstad tallied 19 strikeouts and delivered on offense with two RBIs for the Highlanders, who wound up second after Eastlake beat them in Saturday’s title game, 4-1.
Kentlake fell into a 3-0 hole against Central Kitsap in the first-round consolation game. But freshman Jessie Richardson had three RBIs with a bases-clearing double to cap a five-run third inning, and the Falcons, with seniors Caitlyn Duggan and Felecia Harris splitting the pitching duties, hung on for a 5-4 victory.
“We never give up because some teams, they get down after that first game if they lose. But yeah, it was a tough game,” Harris said. “But we came back and we planned on going as far as we could.”
Kentlake’s weekend was far from over, and Harris wanted to make sure of it. Harris pitched a 1-0 shutout against Richland in the second consolation round and provided all the offense with a fourth-inning home run.
Harris pitched for a fourth time in 24 hours against Stadium in the consolation quarterfinals and showed no signs of restlessness, striking out 14 Tigers. Senior Lauren Nielsen added 3 hits and two RBIs in the 3-1 victory.
“(We) learned that anything can happen,” said the University of Washington-bound Harris. “We can beat any team; any team can beat us any given day. In districts, we lost to Stadium and we were really upset about that. But we went out today and beat them.”
Kentlake’s run ended with a 6-1 loss to Redmond on Saturday. Harris set a school record with her 10th home run of the season and struck out seven hitters in 3 1/3 innings of work.
“I’m going to miss the kid,” Kaas said fighting back tears. “She’s been the face of Kentlake fastpitch for four years and she’ll go down as one of, if not, probably the most prolific player in our history.”