Although it wasn’t the outcome they were anticipating, the Yelm Tornados’ appearance last weekend at the 3A WCD/SW district tournament did earn them a fourth-place finish and shot at the state championship, despite losses in their final two games.
Coming into the tourney, Yelm looked like a tough force to match. But they ultimately fell off, lagging behind in hitting opportunities and a defensive rebound.
Yelm Head Coach Lindsay Walton said it was difficult for her girls to replicate the success they had at the plate Thursday against Spanaway Lake, especially since three players were out for the day.
“The intensity we had on day one of districts was hard to carry over when you had some kids missing,” she said.
Against Spanaway Lake in the first round, senior pitcher Tayelyn Cutler threw a one-hitter, struck out 10 and led Yelm to a 15-0 sweep against the Sentinels.
Then, on Saturday, Yelm suffered a loss to Stadium 3-1. Tied at one going into the top of the seventh inning, Cutler walked three Sentinels, loading the bases. A pop fly ball into left field by Stadium’s Alexys Newman would secure the Tigers two runs and a top-two finish.
Taylor Gubser worked the plate for the Tornados. The Yelm senior went 2-for-3. Gubser clinched Yelm’s sole run in the sixth inning after junior Hailey Brown hit a line drive into center field.
Walton said the Tornados just couldn’t seem to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone to find walks or hits. Stadium pitcher McKenna Braegelmann presented her own obstacles for the team.
“We were just offensively flat,” Walton said. “It was as if someone was holding that bat head … There was no discipline at the plate.”
Despite walking 11 batters, Cutler pitched a good game for Yelm. She struck out 15 and only two batters found hits against her.
Yelm’s proceeding matchup for the third place position against 3A PCL League Champs Bonney Lake would prove an even tougher challenge. The Panthers found their momentum in the third with four runs, with singles on key line drives and grounders.
The final score was 5-0, with Bonney Lake taking third place and Yelm taking fourth.
But there’s still much to be proven for Yelm fans. The Tornados will face Southridge at 9 a.m. Friday, May 24, at the Regional Athletic Complex to begin their shot at the 16-team 3A state tourney.
Looking at the bracket, Walton said she has high hopes for the matchup against Southridge, especially looking at the player stats. But at this point anything can happen and Southridge does play in a 3A/4A combination league.
“In the big picture, you can go into the games with those stats in mind, but anything goes at this point,” Walton said.
Game 1: Yelm Versus Spanaway Lake
A 15-0 shutout against Spanaway Lake Thursday was just what the SSC 3A champion Yelm fastpitch team needed to ring in their first game at districts.
After building momentum from the start and gaining a five-run lead after three innings, the Tornados turned up the heat in the fourth, scoring 10 runs en route to a win that ensured their top-four finish at districts and a run at state.
“When you get a rally going, things just kind of catch fire and people start hitting the ball,” Walton said. “It’s a different level when you make it to districts. The intensity is different.”
Up to bat in the bottom of the fourth, and leading the Sentinels 5-0, the big inning began for the Tornados after a hit by junior Hailey Brown that allowed senior Tayelyn Cutler and junior Maddie Plevyak to run home from third and second.
An error by the Sentinels allowed freshman Ashlyn Aven home from third.
On a 3-2 pitch, senior Taniesha Birdtail curved a hit over the infield into a pocket. This allowed Brown to score, bringing the Tornados up 9-0.
With Calli Jesmer up and no outs yet recorded in the fourth, the senior was able to smash one down center, allowing Birdtail and freshman Elena Castanon to score.
The runs didn’t stop there.
Freshman Molly Embrey then produced a line drive down left field, allowing Jesmer to proceed to third base and herself to take first. Cutler then came in and smacked one through the infield on the 2-0 pitch, bringing Embrey and Jesmer to home plate. Yelm were then at 13-0.
A hit to the outfield by Brown as the bases were loaded would seal the deal for Yelm, as Cutler, Plevyak and senior Taylor Gubser crossed the plate for a final score of 15-0.
Head Coach Lindsay Walton said the team’s goal going into the game was to win every inning. Her girls were looking good at practice on Wednesday, and it was all about following through, she said.
Pitching for Yelm, Tayelyn Cutler brought a consistent game for her team’s defense. She pitched all four innings. The senior struck out 10 batters, walked five and allowed one hit.