Aggressive base running helped West Valley High School end a very long drought in Railbelt Conference Softball Championships.
The third-seeded Wolfpack blanked the top-seeded Wasilla Warriors, 8-0, on Friday afternoon in the final of the five-team, double-elimination tournament at the South Davis Complex.
“They just exceeded our expectations. One game, then the next game and this game was amazing,” West Valley head coach Bryan Mitchell said after the 41/2-inning final. “I’ve never seen this before and I’ve been doing this for a long time. This is amazing.”
West Valley opened the tournament Thursday with a 14-4 win over the second-seeded Colony Knights, of Palmer. The Wolfpack advanced to the Railbelt tournament’s title game after beating the Warriors, 13-1, in the winner’s bracket final Friday morning.
West Valley, with a 9-2 advantage in hits Friday, will be the Railbelt’s top seed and Wasilla its No. 2 seed at the Division I tournament of the Alaska School Activities Association/First National Bank Alaska Softball State Championships on Friday and June 1 at the Cartee Complex in Anchorage.
Wasilla head coach Karli Rauchenstein said she thought Friday’s defeat was a learning curve for the Warriors.
“We are going to use some of these situations we were put in for this game,” Rauchenstein said.
“You’re not really ready for some of the plays until they happen, and so now we know what to work on.”
Half of West Valley’s total runs Friday were registered in the bottom of the fourth inning. The game ended early because West Valley, the home team, was ahead by eight runs after the top of the fifth inning. The first runs three of the Wolfpack’s fourth-inning surge occurred with Madison Fisher, Makayla Mobley and Amelia Wagner-Jones beating throws to plate after dashing from third base.
“With this group, and with just the conditioning we do, if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go being aggressive,” Mitchell said.
“The girls have worked too hard, and it puts a lot of pressure on the defense when you’re aggressive as a coach. And I really wanted to give the girls every opportunity to win this game by being more aggressive on the base paths.”
Kenya Pulgarin capped the fourth-inning surge with a one-out sacrifice to score Jadyn Fraser. Fraser had reached base on a fielder’s choice, which set up Mobley beating a throw to home plate.
Mobley also contributed from the pitching circle to West Valley’s first Railbelt Conference tournament championship in 25 years.
“We told her a couple of weeks ago that ‘we go as far as you go,’” Mitchell said. “This whole weekend, she has pitched better every inning.
“It’s good to see her confidence and her focus — her focus was off the charts.”
The right-handed sophomore struck out four and scattered two hits in a complete-game effort Friday. Mobley only allowed a lead-off, first-pitch single to Jordan Malave in the top of the first inning and a lead-off single to Abigail Beaudry in the top of the second.
“I knew I had my team behind me, so it was a lot easier to get it (pitch) in there,” Mobley said. “I just had fun, I knew I had these guys (teammates).”
Kristen Abramowicz produced the game’s first run in the bottom of the first by leading off with a single to right field and scoring on a sacrifice grounder by Kendra Michaelis.
Tessa Lindgren made it 2-0 an inning later after hitting a single and scoring on Mobley’s one-out grounder.
Fraser made it 4-0 for West Valley in the top of the third after driving home Wagner-Jones with a single and scoring on a groundout by Michaelis.
Mobley struck out Wasilla’s first two batters in the top of the fifth and the game ended after Mia Pokryfki was thrown out by Wolfpack catcher Traci McGee while trying to steal second base. Pokryfki had reached base on a two-out error.
“We’ve been playing together since we were about 8 or so,” Mobley said of McGee. “She has an arm on her. It’s unbelievable and it’s a game changer.”
Wasilla advanced to the title game after defeating the Palmer Moose, 11-5, on Friday afternoon in the elimination-bracket final.
Wasilla had a first-round bye in the tournament and advanced to the winner’s bracket final after beating Palmer, 16-4, on Thursday night. In another late game Thursday, Colony eliminated the Lathrop Malemutes with a 4-3 win.
Palmer beat Colony, 8-7, on Friday morning in an elimination game.
An article about the All-Tournament team will be published Sunday.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.