The right arm of Lynden Christian starter Kasey Luna hung tired and fatigued.
She had thrown 19 innings in one day at the Class 1A Tri-District softball tournament on Saturday, May 24, guiding the Lyncs to three consecutive wins in a six-hour window.
Her coach Mitch Moorlag sensed she was running on fumes. A question came into his mind, wondering how he could pull her out after she had pitched so well.
"I kept asking her every inning, 'How is your gas level? You OK?' I didn't want to be the one to pull her out," Moorlag said in a phone interview. "I was going to have to get a rope and pull her off the field. She didn't want to come out. A fierce competitor."
Luna despises losing. Admittedly, she said in a phone interview, there's nothing worse in the world in her opinion. At tri-districts, her sound performance in the circle and the solid defense played behind her kept three teams to a combined two runs, earning the Lyncs a berth into the state tournament.
Lynden Christian opens up its Class 1A State Softball tournament against Connell at Noon Friday, May 30, at the Columbia Playfield in Richland, Washington.
That's plenty of time to let her weary arm rest.
"I was really, really tired. ... We lost to Nooksack once, and I didn't want to lose to them again. I had to fight my way through the last three innings," Luna said. "I just have a lot of courage."
Lynden Christian was by no means a lock to make the state tournament when playoffs began. The Lyncs finished 10th in the Northwest Conference standings with a 4-8 league record, losing rough games to fellow 1A schools Blaine, Nooksack Valley and Mount Baker.
The losses to the Mountaineers were more stinging than most, Moorlag said, because his club largely wasn't even competitive.
Lynden Christian, which was desperately in need of confidence, found it in a 1-0 loss to Mount Baker in a district title game that lasted eight innings, pitting Luna against fellow NWC pitcher Aleks Toivola.
"It was a huge confidence booster. I had no idea that game was going to end up like that," Luna said. "I wasn't expecting them to 10-run us. ... But going into that game, I definitely did not think that game was going to be a one-point game."
History suggested it wouldn't either, with the Mountaineers twice defeating the Lyncs this season by a combined margin of 22-2.
Moorlag saw a different girl in the circle than he had in their previous meetings with Mount Baker.
"Those weren't real feel-good moments for us," said Moorlag of the two regular-season meetings with Baker. "Then when she took the ball a week ago and they only got one run in the eighth to win it, that was a complete turnaround. That meant so much for her and our team, especially her to get that confidence. 'Here is a really great hitting team and I can hold them to a low score.'"
As fierce a competitor as Luna is, her battle with failure has been a practice in patience. She said she knows no other way to be than fiercely competitive.
Moorlag has come to learn, too, that he has to protect her from herself. He keeps in mind her body language and what it communicates - her demeanor and how it can dictate her outings. The final few weeks have seen Luna grab hold of that passion and focus in toward commanding her pitches and allowing her defense do the rest, Moorlag said.
If she continues to do that, he continued, then she's going to present Connell with someone willing to do anything to win.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
CLASS 1A STATE SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT
LYNDEN CHRISTIAN VS. CONNELL
When: Noon, Friday, May 30
Where: Columbia Playfied in Richland, Washington