Emily Yost ends up doing a whole lot with the softball when she's not trying to do too much.
Yost, Mount Baker's clean-up batter, has a simple approach to hitting. It's helped her find a home in the heart of the Mountaineers' batting order.
"I just focus on what I need to do for my team," Yost said in a phone interview. "If it's a sacrifice pop up or a line-drive hit, I'm not trying to do too much. I just focus on each at-bat."
Such focus has helped Yost produce team-leading numbers in extra base hits, RBI and home runs, and she's hit some big shots this season, in big spots, too.
"Emily has a knack for getting big hits," Baker coach Ron Lepper said in a phone interview. "When it doesn't happen, you're kind of disappointed. Not like we expect her to hit every time, but she comes through. When she gets a hold of it and gets good wood, she makes things happen."
Yost's game-changing swing was never more prevalent during what was arguably Mount Baker's most important game of the season - a loser-out, winner-to-state matchup against Blaine last week during the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament.
A two-run homer in the first inning sent early momentum Mount Baker's way, and the sophomore slugger finished the game 2 for 3 with four RBI, propelling the Mountaineers to a 7-0 win.
Yost will try to provide her team with more clutch hits when Baker opens the Class 2A State Tournament against Woodland at noon Friday, May 24, at Columbia Playfields in Richland.
"She was our leading hitter in the postseason last year, too," Lepper said. "She just understands she needs to drive in runs, and that is a part of her job."
Baseball legend Reggie Jackson was known as Mr. October for his elevated playoff plate work. Yost may as well be dubbed Miss May. Once again, she's stepped up in the final month of the softball season and has helped the Mountaineers reach state in consecutive seasons.
Before last year, 2004 marked the last time Mount Baker reached Washington's prep softball pinnacle tournament.
Yost, whom Lepper has prodded to continue to develop vocal leadership, has had her seniors in mind this whole postseason.
"We're playing for the seniors, to keep them going," she said. "The seniors have done a really good job of leading the team. We just don't want to be done. We want to keep going."
Those seniors include top hitter Aysha Schwinden, one of the best defensive short stops in the league Megan Young, Tawni Galbraith, who Lepper said has really found her stride toward the end of the year, and role player Mariah Ladd.
Lepper has placed Yost as high as No. 2 in the batting order all the way down to No. 6. While the Baker coach acknowledged that after the first time through the lineup, batting order has no real significance, Yost seems to get to the plate with runners on, Lepper said. And that usually means an RBI or two.
Yost's hitting, especially of late, has been impressive, but so has her ability to move from center field to catcher even if she said the position change has been relatively flawless.
When last year's starting catcher Morgan Henry transfered to Sehome, the Mountaineers were left with a void behind the plate. Yost traded her outfielder's glove for a catcher's, possibly a glove she's more comfortable wearing anyway.
Before Yost started in the outfield as a freshman, she caught for fellow Mount Baker sophomore pitcher Aleks Toivola on the same softball team since third or fourth grade, she said.
"It's been pretty easy catching Aleks," Yost admitted. "She has helped me out a lot this year getting used to her pitches. I've always caught Aleks, but she has really helped me out."
Yost is a versatile player. She plays varsity basketball and volleyball as well as softball, and Lepper said she could play just about any position on the diamond or in the outfield. It isn't necessarily due to her natural athletic ability, though she is athletically strong. Instead, Lepper credited her immense work ethic as the reason she's been so successful in her three sports.
Playing catcher, which Lepper billed as the quarterback of football or the point guard of basketball, has come somewhat easy to Yost, but playing the position requires a fiery leader, and that's an area Yost is continuing to work on.
"Being a sophomore, you don't want to over step your boundary," Lepper said, "but being at (catcher) you have to be able to hold people accountable. She has to make throws to certain bases and know bunt coverages. I just remind her that that's your job. You're not being mean. That's your position. You have to communicate, and she's does it in a way where she's not being snotty. You got to say, 'This is what we do, and this is how we are going to do it.'"
Yost admitted being that vocal leader has been a challenge but "fun at the same time."
Lepper wants his team to enjoy the trip to east to Richland, but he made it clear the Mountaineers need to treat the tournament as a business trip.
"This group has finally found themselves I think," Lepper said. "I think the chemistry has been really good. The girls are excited to go to the state tournament. You get to stay in a motel. Going to state is a big reward. We are trying to enjoy that, but we're there to play games. It's no guarantee that we are going back. We know if we play well, we can play with anybody."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
SOFTBALL STATE TOURNAMENTS
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, May 24, at Carlon Park in Selah
First round: Lynden vs. Sumner, 10 a.m.
Second round: Lynden vs. Ellensburg or Aberdeen, TBD
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
Friday, May 24, at Columbia Playfield in Richland
First round: Nooksack Valley vs. Elma, noon
Second round: Nooksack Valley vs. Lakeside or Warden, TBD
First round: Mount Baker vs. Woodland, noon
Second round: Mount Baker vs. Riverview or Okanogan
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.