Late rally propels Newport to state tourney

Three outs.

Beka James makes contact during the Knights win over Bishop Blanchet on May 15 at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

Three outs.

That’s all that stood between the Liberty Patriots softball team and sealing a trip to the state tournament.

Three outs.

That’s how many chances the Newport Knights had to come from behind after surrendering a 5-1 lead late in the SeaKing district winner-to-state game at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

It was three more than Newport needed.

The Knights rallied to score four runs in the top of the seventh and final inning and held on to beat Liberty 9-6 on May 16 and earn a berth to state for only the second time in school history.

Trailing 6-5 entering the final inning, Erin Tsutsumoto led off with a double to deep left field and scored the tying run thanks to a Stacey Hagensen single up the middle. One batter later, Kylie Barchenger singled in Hagensen to give the Knights the lead and helped send the Knights to state with a come-from-behind victory.

“I told them before the seventh inning to have it in their hearts and not let up,” said Newport head coach Al Simons. “I knew after Erin’s hit that we would make it happen.”

The Knights (16-8) sent five batters to the plate in the seventh before Liberty was able to record an out. Newport’s big inning mirrored the fifth inning in which Liberty (16-12) took the lead; in that inning, the Patriots scored four runs and sent 10 batters to the plate.

“We’ve had a couple games where we’ve come from behind before,” said Simons, who has previously guided Issaquah and Skyline to state. “Last year we were two outs from making the state tournament. They didn’t want to feel like that again.”

And they wouldn’t, thanks to timely hitting in the final inning. Newport’s win assured the Knights a state berth, and moved them on to the Sea-King District Championship game a mere two hours after the Liberty victory, where Newport lost to Issaquah 4-2.

That loss couldn’t take away the sense of accomplishment for the Knights after coming up short last season.

“This has been our goal the last two seasons,” said Hagensen, who earned the win against Liberty and the previous day’s game, a 7-4 win over Bishop Blanchet in the first round. “To achieve that is pretty great. Even when we were down we still knew we could do it. “

“It’s all kinds of excitement and the emotion is running high for everyone,” Simons said. “I’m just very, very proud of all of them.”

Everything even worked out for hard-luck loser Liberty; the Patriots defeated Skyline 4-1 in a loser-out game to join Issaquah, Newport and Bainbridge of the Metro Conference as the SeaKing’s four berths to state.

Newport will face off against Capital High School of Olympia at 1 p.m. Friday at the SERA Fields in Tacoma in the first round of the state tournament.

If the Knights win that game, they will play the winner of Bonney Lake-Kamiakin at 7 p.m. the same day.

“We just need to continue playing like we have the last couple of days,” Simons said. “Now the girls have confidence; they know they can win.”

Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at jwillits@reporternewspapers.com.

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