The Yelm High School fastpitch team had a chance to break its 15-year state championship drought Saturday against Garfield, but the Tornados couldn't counter a big fourth inning by the Bulldogs, who went on to win 10-4.
It wasn’t all bad news for Yelm during a rain-delayed game at the Lacey RAC. The SSC champs took the title of second best team statewide in the 3A after a memorable weekend full of powerful plays and hard-fought effort.
“You can’t be sad with second place, you can’t. We worked hard to get here,” said Yelm Head Coach Lindsay Walton. “These girls were in it every inning, every pitch. And that’s all you can ask for… I’m just proud of them.”
Yelm's last state championship win was in 2004, Walton said. Since then, the Tornados have had many noteworthy appearances at the tourney, including a third-place finish last year.
Senior Tayelyn Cutler and junior Maddie Plevyak led Yelm in scoring with two runs each.
Junior Hailey Brown worked the plate for Yelm, going 3-for-4 and finishing the game with 3 runs batted in.
Down 0-1 at the top of the third inning, Brown singled on a hard grounder to bring Cutler home for the 1-1 tie. Brown also doubled a line driver down left field in the sixth inning, securing runs for Plevyak and Cutler, and bringing Yelm closer to Garfield’s with the score at 7-4.
The Tornados wouldn’t be able to keep up though, as the Bulldogs capitalized on some key errors to bring three more runs in at the bottom of the sixth. Going into the final inning, Garfield struck out the side, ending the team’s opportunity at gold.
Both Brown and Cutler made quality time on the rubber. Cutler pitched the first four innings, striking out nine, walking three and allowing six hits. Brown pitched the final three innings, striking out and walking two each, and giving up two hits.
Yelm ends the season with another impressive record and another year at the state tourney. The Tornados went 13-1 in their league, earning the top seat in their league, and went 21-6 overall.
Five seniors will graduate this spring. Of those five, assistant coach Russ Riches said he’s had the privilege of coaching three since they were in seventh grade.
“Just to watch them go out on this kind of note is great. They’re great kids, very good fastpitch players, but better people. To watch them and see the things they’ve done and to get to this game, I can’t be prouder of them,” Riches said.