Bellevue fastpitch wins pair, into state semis

It took two extra frames, a pair of comebacks and 16 innings in the circle from Emily Fleischman, but the Bellevue fastpitch squad prevailed with a pair of wins to advance to the semi-final round of the 3A state fastpitch tournament on Friday at Recreational Athletic Complex in Lacey.

The first win, a 7-1 defeat of Bonney Lake, exorcised a demon from 2010 and was largely the product of an outstanding effort from pitcher Fleischman.

The junior starter had a 4-4 game at the plate and scored three runs while also tossing seven innings of one-run softball in the circle.

Bellevue coach Heather Tracy noticed a sense of belonging rather than awe from her team in this their second trip to state in the past two seasons.

“You could tell there was just a difference in the energy and the confidence level ever since we got here,” Tracy said.

The Wolverines stayed in the area on Thursday night and practiced at Recreational Athletic Complex in Lacey, which features synthetic infield surfaces. “I think that added to feeling comfortable and everyone is a year older and more experienced, we’ve been here before,” Tracy noted.

Fleischman was superb but she was far from alone in the opening win as Taylor Cooke, Anjani Briggs, Lisa Bennett, Katie Savard and Marika McCarthy all had base hits and Maddie Smith checked-in with one run batted in.

Kamiakin was waiting for Bellevue after the win in a rematch of the 3A state title game in football.

Trailing by a single run in the fifth inning, the Wolverines finally cracked the case of Braves’ starting pitcher Lindsey Kamphuis, a junior who was the Columbia Basin Big Nine Defensive Player of the Year. McCarthy got things going with a one-out single, but Kamphuis looked as though she would wriggle off the hook again after a strikeout.

Katie Savard had other ideas, however, turning an 0-2 pitch from Kamphuis into a run-scoring double that tied the score at one. Savard was 4-4 in the game with a run scored and RBI to led the offensive effort.

Bellevue then took advantage of some dicey fielding from Kamiakin, scoring another run on an error before being retired to take their first lead of the game.

The Braves tied things at two in the bottom half of the inning on two Bellevue miscues in the field, but Fleischman and the Wolverines escaped without further damage on a pair of flyouts.

Bellevue took another lead in the top half of the seventh on three singles and a fielder’s choice, but watched again as Kamiakin knotted the score on a sacrifice fly that also left the winning run only 60-feet from home. But again Fleischman got creative to escape the inning and keep the Wolverines alive, inducing a ground ball back to the circle that she handled for the third out of the inning.

The International tie-break rule came into effect in the ninth, putting a runner at second base to begin the inning. But after two outs and a stolen base, the Wolverines still had only one runner on at second. Marika McCarty then advanced on a balk before another clutch base hit from Bennett brought her home with what would be the game-winning run. Fleischman retired the side in order in the bottom half of the ninth to preserve the win.

Bennett finished the game with three RBI for the game and five for the day after knocking in a pair in the opening round win over Bonney Lake.

Bellevue’s win means they set a date with a familiar foe: the Juanita Rebels.

It will be a match-up of the top two teams from 3A KingCo and the top two pitchers in the conference as well, with the Rebels’ Allison Rhodes taking first team honors in the circle while Emily Fleischman was named to the second team.

Rhodes shutout the Wolverines 1-0 in the first meeting between the two and 8-0 the second time around this season, both complete game efforts. She led 9-3 and 10-1 efforts for Juanita on Friday.

She will again match-up against Fleischman, who struck out nine and allowed only three earned runs on Friday in two wins of her own.

That game will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at RAC in Lacey and will be for a spot in the 3A state title game later in the afternoon against either Bainbridge Island or Kelso.

Game Notes

Bellevue overcame 15 strikeouts in the win over Kamiakin...Fleischman walked two batters in the first game and none in the second…The Wolverines had 11 hits in each of the first two games…Juanita’s two losses this season came against Eastlake and Woodinville (nine innings)…Bellevue has now won four straight.

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