LACEY - It may have been the Golden Eagles' first trip to the Class 3A State Softball Tournament, but it wasn't the first time a softball team from Ferndale had played at state. The school sent teams to four slowpitch state tournaments, most recently in 1992, and even brought home a couple of trophies.
But it's been 22 years since then - almost half a decade longer than any player on the current roster has been alive.
The Golden Eagles certainly didn't come out looking like a team making its debut at state on Thursday, May 30. In its first-round game against Bainbridge, Ferndale jumped on the Spartans early for a 12-5 victory at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
"I just keep telling them we're playing the same game, whether we're in Ferndale or were down here at state," coach Holly Hilton said.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, it really didn't matter where they were playing when they took on two-time defending state champion Kamiakin in the state quarterfinals. The Braves simply had a too much for Ferndale, sending the Golden Eagles to the consolation bracket with a 9-2 setback.
In the consolation game, Ferndale twice appeared to have Holy Names beaten to extend its season by one more day, but the Cougars had the last say when Claire McCarthy crushed a two-run, walk-off home run to end the Golden Eagles' season with a 14-13 defeat. Ferndale finished with a 22-4 record.
"I think it's been a great season," Hilton said. "We learned something through these games. We're at state, so any team can come back at any time. No team is quitting. ... I think our girls are going to be hungry to come back next year and try to improve the results."
It would be hard to improve upon how the Golden Eagles played in the first round.
Ferndale's solution to not being overwhelmed by the situation?
Simple, just not thinking about it.
"We really just wanted to win, not just for us, but for everything," junior Kadence Kane said, referring to the rest of the school, their parents and the program. "We wanted to stay relaxed and not worry about where we were."
Bainbridge, on the other hand, looked a little on edge early, as a pair of first-inning outfield errors allowed Ferndale the opportunity to push across the first two runs of the game. Kane scored from first on an error following Abigail Bauthues' double, and Bauthues followed her home one batter when Lauren Maley's single was again misplayed in the outfield.
"Thankfully we came out swinging the bat and laying some bunts down and being aggressive, and that really paid off for us," Hilton said.
Ferndale made its own luck in the second, when Scarlett Nyenhuis plated Erika Ebe on a suicide squeeze with two outs, before Kane doubled in Drew Westford and Nyenhuis to make it 5-0 after two.
"I really wasn't thinking much; I just went up and hit," Kane said of her big hit hit.
Westford kept her foot on the gas in the third, ripping a 1-0 pitch into the teeth of the early morning breeze over the right-field fence to chase in Savanna Shawler and Collette Brown and put the Golden Eagles up 8-0.
After a silent fourth, Ferndale got back on the board when Ebe scored on a throwing error, Westford scored on Nyenhuis' sacrifice fly and Kane crushed a 3-1 pitch over the center-field fence for a two-run homer, making it 12-0.
As you would expect, Kane, who went 3 for 5 with four RBI in the game, said she wasn't thinking about the situation before her big hit.
Whatever the reason, Ferndale certainly tore the cover off the ball, as the Golden Eagles tallied 15 hits - at least one by every player in the starting lineup - and had five go for extra bases.
"It was nice to see them all get out and attack," Hilton said. "When we got here, they were focused last night, and they went to bed early. They wanted to play, and they wanted to succeed and show that they are a good team."
Though Bainbridge touched her for three runs in the bottom of the fifth to keep the game from coming to an early conclusion and another two runs in the bottom of the seventh, Maley showed she was just as dangerous as the Golden Eagles' offense, as she struck out eight and breezed through the other five innings.
"'Lou' is always strong," Hilton said of her pitcher. "She got up this morning, and she was focused and felt good. I think her pitches were working. She's worked hard all year long, obviously, showing improvement over last year in her speed and location. I think it helps having Drew Westford back there (at catcher). I think Lauren and Drew work together real well."
The duo continued to work together well in the quarterfinals, but even they couldn't find an answer for big-hitting Kamiakin.
After being silenced in the first when they failed to convert a sure-fire sacrifice fly opportunity, the Braves scored at least one run in next five innings, starting with four in the second thanks in part to Melanie Oord's two run double.
"They hit the ball, no matter where the pitch is thrown," Hilton said. "They have the ability to hit the outside pitch and inside pitch. They were strong at the plate and have good arms. We battled. Unfortunately, we weren't able to match them stick for stick."
Ferndale's offense came when Westford doubled and scored on Kane's third-inning single and Shawler doubled and scored on a passed ball.
Other than that, Kamiakin starter Emiley Moore kept the Golden Eagles under her thumb, allowing six hits while striking out eight.
"She throws what I call a heavy ball, where the ball accelerates on you a short distance away from the plate, so you think you have it timed and then all of a sudden it catches up on you and rises," Hilton said. "We had a hard time staying on top of the ball, I thought. And maybe we were a little anxious - getting behind and not used to being behind and trying to catch up."
Ferndale got its offense going again in the consolation game again Holy Names, as it sent 13 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs and tagged on an 11th in the second inning.
In fact, Ferndale looked like it could cruise into the second day of the tournament and ended up pulling Maley after two shutout innings.
"There were a couple reasons we pulled her," Hilton said. "It was a chance we took, and it didn't work out."
The Cougars made the Golden Eagles pay for that decision when they sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and capped off an eight-run rally with Samantha Carlson's two-run homer to tie the game up at 12-12.
Ferndale reclaimed the lead in the top of the seventh on Westford's solo home run just left of center field, but Holy Names again had an answer. And that answer was McCarthy, who followed a leadoff walk drawn by Kendall Valenzuela with a rocket over the right-field fence for the walk-off winner.
Though the loss obviously stung, the good news for Ferndale is they should return every member of their state roster except one.
"Collette Brown, she has had a great year, and I've really enjoyed coaching her for four years," Hilton said of her senior. "She's going to be tough to replace."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
FERNDALE 12, BAINBRIDGE 5
Ferndale 233 040 0 -- 12 15 0
Bainbridge 000 030 2 -- 5 10 3
WP: Lauren Maley. LP: Deahna King. Highlights: Ferndale: Scarlett Nyenhuis 2-4, R, RBI; Kadence Kane 3-5, R, 4 RBI, 2B, HR; Abigail Bauthues 2-3, R; Collette Brown 3-4; Drew Westford 2-4, 3 R, 3 RBI, HR.
KAMIAKIN 9, FERNDALE 2
Ferndale 001 100 0 -- 2 6 2
Kamiakin 041 112 x -- 9 14 0
WP: Emiley Moore. LP: Lauren Maley. Highlights: Ferndale: Kadence Kane 1-2, RBI; Abigail Bauthues 1-3, 2B; Savanna Shawler 1-3, R, 2B; Drew Westford 2-3, R, 2B.
HOLY NAME 14, FERNDALE 13
Ferndale (10)10 100 1 -- 13 13 2
Holy Names 003 180 2 -- 14 13 6
WP: Kaitlin Cappetto. LP: Lauren Maley. Highlights: Ferndale: Dana Ebe 3-4, R, 2 RBI, 2 2B; Scarlett Nyenhuis 1-2, 2 R; Kadence Kane 2-5, R, 3 RBI, HR; Collette Brown 2-2, R, 2 RBI, HR; Drew Westford 2-3, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.