RICHLAND – Castle Rock was just three teams away from ousting the top seed in the 1A State Softball Tournament and advancing to the semifinals to make a strong claim as the Team of the Tournament to beat him.
But three rounds in the bottom of the 10th frame gave Eatonville a run of 9-8 victory and sent the Rockets free into the consolation arc with their state title hopes dashed and now just a third-place trophy on the table.
How will the missiles react? They ducked and laughed en route to a carefree 13-5 blast over No. 4 Freeman.
“I feel like the performance was really good… We still had a chance to get some hardware, and they knew that,” Castle Rock coach Ron Strode said. “They have become a bit more relaxed and that’s what we need. After that intensity, now let’s just relax and then we got out and started hitting the ball and started playing.”
After 16 circuit runs that day and no hitter in their first match against Royal, Payton Kessler got a well-deserved break from spinning strikes for the Rockets. Rachel Squibb, who had a hot day out of the batter box, took control of the rubber and threw an entire game in the process.
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“Rachel did a really good job on the hill,” Strode said. “For her to come in and throw a full match after an intense match like that… It just shows you a competitor going to the next level.”
Squibb enjoyed her time walking on rubber, often laughing at the amusement as Kessler gave her everything on first base. Squibb gave up five runs in seven strokes and three walks in the longest stretch of her season on the circuit.
The Rockets took their fluid style of play to the plate, where they blasted off for 13 throws against the Scotties.
The Rockets quickly dominated three runs at first thanks to singles from Squibb, Jenna Lee and Payton Ricketts. They added with four others in fourth to take a 7-1 lead, highlighted by a two-round triple to the wall in the left center gap by Rhiannon Sebet.
The Rockets continued to advance with a fifth-place run, followed by three more sixths and a final pair in seventh to close out the Scots, rebounding from the championship, and one step closer to the bronze finish.
Squibb maintained her strong day with a 2v4 show with RBI and a three-stroke fourth. Sibbett finished 2 for 5 with two RBIs and scored a pair of runs to aid in the effort.
Finally, the Rockets played three games Friday that spanned 23 innings and scored 31 runs to finish the day 2-1 and advance to the second day of the tournament. After a stressful day like that, the Rockets are back to basics to try to rally on Saturday.
“We’re going to have a little meeting tonight, that’s our plan, and we’re going to talk about our strategy and how to keep winning the game,” Stroud said.
Castle Rock nearly booked their trip to Day Two early in their heartbreaking loss to top seed Eatonville, but the Rockets have a lot to be proud of after a day of results.
Castle Rock trailed 4-1 for seventh. They struggled to hit every match consistently and allow the cruisers to take the lead with three faults in the third inning which allowed the cruisers to score three runs.
But when it looked like they were going to lick their wounds, the Rockets were sure to keep fighting. A pair passed balls and one of Kessler’s RBI team tied the match and sent it to the extras.
The free tires were intense, with every 60 feet weighing down the potential outcome. After the rounds of trading in the ninth, the Rockets appeared to be clear of the house after plating three into the top of the tenth with a triple-fault and doubling the RBI from Squibb. However, Homer’s two-stage strike returned the momentum to Cruiser’s corner and Eatonville took off with the win.
The Rockets’ performance against Freeman in the Cup of the Night showed that they really had nothing to hang their heads after after the heartbreaking loss.
“They knew they had to come back and tie it or win it and that’s what they did,” Stroud said. “We did some runs, we went and got some hits and I’m so proud of them for what they did. To come back and tie and keep tying and fighting to 10 runs.”
Stroud praised Kessler on the circuit and Lee behind the board for 10 lasting runs, even though the cruisers were the last stunt in their bag.
“We have to finish it too even though we’re in a race,” Stroud said. “A team like that, we’re like them too, if they give us this race, we’ll come back and get it too.”
Castle Rock was scheduled to return on the dirt diamond at 11 a.m. Saturday to play the loser in Saturday’s morning showdown between Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley for the right to play in a third-place play-off Saturday afternoon.