Prep softball: Tumwater pushes right buttons late to beat Centralia


At Fort Borst Park


Tumwater 110 002 01 — 5

Centralia 202 000 00 — 4

TUM Pitching — Ferguson (W) 8 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 14 SO. Highlights — Schock 2-5, RBI, SB; Paull 0-4, RBI; Ferguson 2-4, 2 R, SB

CEN Pitching — Wakefield (L) 8 IP, 6 H, 5 R (0 ER), 3 BB, 14 SO. Highlights — Chavez 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R; Schofield 1-4, HR, RBI, R; Baumel 1-3, BB

It wasn't a Picasso. It wasn't even a good painting by a fourth grader.

Very few things went right for Tumwater High School's softball team on Monday night. Star pitcher Ella Ferguson struggled out of the gate. The offense sputtered for a handful of innings. Approaches at the plate were a touch off.

"We need to get this done or we're not going to succeed," outfielder Erika Schock said. "We thought that if we went nice and easy, it would go our way."

Even when the Thunderbirds are off, they still found a way.

Rallying down two runs with six outs left, Tumwater scored the final three tallies of the night to triumph over Centralia 5-4 in an eight-inning thriller at Fort Borst Park to remain perfect in the Class 2A Evergreen Conference.

"We do dig deep," Ferguson said. "Sometimes, it just means when we walk in here, we need to get on it a little bit earlier and show them that we know who we are. They should be scared to play Tumwater.

"It is our comeback season."

The victory keeps the T-Birds (9-2, 5-0 EvCo) a half-game ahead of Aberdeen and W.F. West for first place. The Bobcats and Bearcats will meet on Wednesday in Aberdeen.

Even with the victory, head coach Ashley Lupinski held a post-game team meeting that lasted over 15 minutes. The intacracies of the game itself didn't sit right with her.

Schock, Ferguson and Megan Barrett were the lone Tumwater hitters with multiple hits. It stranded at least one runner on base in seven of the eight frames and Centralia starter Hollynn Wakefield registered 14 strikeouts.

"We work on specific things during practice and our effort was lacking," Lupinski said. "A win is a win, but there is the balance there that we did not play to our potential. That's the standard."

Still, a rally was beginning to muster and it all started with a pinch-hitter.

Lexie Peller led the sixth inning off with a walk and ended up crossing home on a wild pitch to make it 4-3. Ferguson stood at second base with two outs and a fly ball to left field off the bat of Jaime Haase was mishandled by the Tigers to tie the game.

In the eighth, Ferguson laced a two-out single to keep the inning alive. She ended up reaching third on a stolen base and a passed ball. Schock chopped a grounder off the glove of Lauren Wasson and Tumwater took the lead.

"I couldn't let my team down," Schock said. "I knew I needed to do whatever it took."

Ferguson is the rare pitcher that will run for herself instead of a courtesy runner. She darted for home to score the go-ahead run.

"When it is high school, it is special for me to show that part of myself that I don't show on the club field," Ferguson said. "When I'm playing for Tumwater, I feel like I'm fighting for my hometown."

"She's fast and she is a smart base runner," Lupinski added. "That's why I keep her out there."

Ferguson, a Nevada commit, shut down the Tigers late to preserve the win. The right-hander allowed just three base runners over the last four innings and finished with 14 strikeouts.

"I had to sit in place and realize who I am and who I'm throwing for," Ferguson said. "Really get in my head that I own that circle when I'm out there."

Six errors, plus a handful of wild pitches and passed balls, proved to be the downfall for Centralia (6-5, 2-3).

"Definitely got away from us," Tigers head coach David Orr said. "We had some new girls in some spots. Just mental blocks. The ability is all there, they just haven't gotten that confidence yet."

Makayla Chavez blasted a two-run home run to give Centralia a 2-1 lead after one complete frame. It added two more in the third on a leadoff solo shot by Gracie Schofield and an infield error by the T-Birds.

The top-five hitters in the Tigers lineup all notched hits. Wakefield danced out of multiple jams and came up big with a handful of full count K's.

"She was clutch," Orr said. "I can't ask for more. She did a great job."

Tumwater will face city rival Black Hills on Wednesday in a league game, but the next two Monday contests will go a long way to determining the league title. The T-Birds will face W.F. West next Monday and host Aberdeen on April 29.

"We have some girls that can take some good, hard coaching," Lupinski said.

Centralia will hit the road to face Rochester on Wednesday night. Those two plus Black Hills are jostling for the fourth and final playoff spot in the 2A District 4 tournament.

"These girls like to live on the edge," Orr said. "I don't know if they just play better that way, they can't take the easy route. When they have all the confidence, it is so fun to watch. There's nothing I want to change."