The Enumclaw High fastpitch team has given the sports world a new adage: The game isn’t over until the last Hornet swings.
After the 3A district championship game a few other old ones can be thrown in the mix like: What the heck just happened? Do you believe in miracles? And from Vince Lombardi, “It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner… What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.”
The Hornets were on the verge of not being a winner and losing the 3A district crown it has held for the past two years Saturday at Sprinker Fields.
With the girls staring at a 2-0 deficit against the Kelso Hilanders in the bottom of the seventh, the Hornets pulled a 3-2 win out of the hat for its third consecutive 3A district crown Saturday at Sprinker Fields.
The score tells only the beginning of the wild ending.
The game was scoreless through five innings with neither team able to capitalize on the few hits given up by the respective pitchers.
In the top of the fifth, Enumclaw junior pitcher Quinn Breidenbach, one of the top hurlers in the state, walked a batter. Kady Bruce, the pitcher for Kelso, came up and Breidenbach hung a curve to her. Bruce stroked it over the center field fence to give Kelso a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth the Hornets had runners on second and third but couldn’t bring them in.
In the bottom of the seventh Kelso was three outs away from ending the Hornets’ district dominance.
Freshman Hailey Roberts came to the plate and battled Bruce to a full count on about 15 pitches before hitting the ball to shallow center for a single.
Next senior Tammy Wilkening bunted a fastball in the air along the first base line and the Kelso girl playing third runs into the ball that appeared to be going foul. Wilkening makes it to first safely and Roberts is on second.
Senior shortstop Chloe Young digs in and pulls a ball to right field and that is when the fun began.
Roberts rounded third and slide into home. She would have been out, but the Kelso catcher, Nariah Morgan, dropped the ball.
“I thought I was going to be out until I jumped up and saw she dropped the ball,” Roberts said. That was the first score.
Wilkening drove for home next. The catcher had chased the dropped ball to the backstop and tossed it to Bruce who was covering home.
“I had a lot of adrenaline going,” Wilkening said. “When I went in I saw she had the ball and I punched it with my left hand and knocked it out.” That was the second run.
Bruce picked the ball up and decided to throw Young out at third.
“I remember he (coach Mike Eckhart) yelled to get down so I slide into third,” Young said.
The pitcher overthrew third and Young sailed into home for the win.
“It was absolutely insane. It was intense and really cool.” Breidenbach said, who was icing her arm following the game.
She said her arm was sore after pitching seven innings earlier in the day when Enumclaw beat Central Kitsap 4-0 in the semifinal game.
The team’s dominance during the season with most games ending in five innings, meant Breidenbach has seldom thrown complete games, which likely caused some fatigue in her arm in the second game at district.
Breidenbach said giving up a home run “doesn’t bother me that much” but admitted she got a “little mad.”
Senior Hornet catcher Meagan Johnson said she could tell Breidenbach was a little mad. “She threw so hard it hurt my hand,” she said.
Johnson played the game with a slightly swollen and stiff right arm after getting stitches when she was spiked in the 4-3 Enumclaw win over Prairie Friday.
After getting stitches Johnson said she sent a text to her coach, “I told him I hoped it didn’t keep me from playing. I wanted to play,” Johnson said.
Eckhart said it was one of the best games he has been involved in.
“I told the girls (in the seventh) you have the bats in your hands,” Eckhart said.
Scoring for the final inning was three runs scored from three errors, two dropped balls at the plate and an overthrow to third. There were two hits by the Hornets and four errors by Kelso in the seventh, counting the misplayed bunt.
Enumclaw will play next 9 a.m. Friday against Juanita at the Regional Athletic Complex, 8345 Steilacoom Road S.E., Lacey in the first round to the state tournament.