Sofia Mottern-Salinas gives a yell after getting the rally going against North Creek. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sofia Mottern-Salinas gives a yell after getting the rally going against North Creek. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kentwood fastpitch rallies at state, but misses out on trophy

Kentwood went 2-2 in the state tournament, falling to Emerald Ridge and Puyallup on final day.

Kentwood’s quest for a state softball championship appearance will have to go another year as the Conks just missed out on the state final in Richland.

The Conks’ state tournament began on Friday morning, May 24, with a game against Redmond and University of Oklahoma commit Tia Milloy.

Sarah Wright toed the slab for the Conks as she had ten times earlier this season for Head Coach Sydney Eacret.

Wright’s arm had never been in a fresher state as they headed into the state tournament. She hadn’t thrown in the month of April and cruised through the district tournament, averaging just under 120 pitches in those three games.

The Conks’ offense got out to a hot start with a three-run first inning, really settling the nerves. Izzy Tomasson had the big knock with a single, scoring Jo Francis-Rodrigues and Wright.

Game one was a typical Wright performance — she held the Mustangs to just three hits, struck out 17 and had just two walks in the game. She held Milloy to an 0-3 day with two strikeouts.

Game two was the Sofie Mottern-Salinas game. Kentwood thought they would be matched up with 4A surprise team Hanford, but 13th seeded North Creek upset the Falcons and took a full head of steam into the matchup with the Conks.

Kentwood had a 1-0 lead in the first inning and looked to be the team with the momentum. They took a 2-1 lead on a Mottern-Salinas RBI single heading into the bottom of the third. Mottern-Salinas said the closeness of this team has really helped them down the stretch.

“It’s been so much fun. We’re all that much tighter and everyone has known each other since little league. Everyone is pretty close,” she said.

In the home half of the third, the game took its first turn. With two runners on, and one out in the third, Emma Gochenour smacked a line drive to left field that scorched its way over the fence for a three-run homer.

Kentwood went the next two innings on offense, six up, six down. From an outsider’s perspective, the sixth inning was due to be just like the fourth and fifth. North Creek was just on a roll, and Kentwood was struggling to push in the other direction. But that all changed in the sixth.

“I was never worried, just because we know our girls and we know what they can do in one inning. It was getting the right thing to click with them. All it took was one person to get a hit and the whole team fired,” Eacret said.

Thomasson started the inning off with a single, which turned into a run after Mottern-Salinas doubled off the wall in left field. Sophia Sappa dropped a bunt down that resulted in a run which tied the game at 4-4.

“We worked a lot on pressure and how to feel pressure the right way… Pressure is good, pressure drives us,” Eacret said.

The Conks went on to load the bases and JJ Ursino, still recovering from a wrist injury, scored a run on a sacrifice fly to take the lead. The final gut punch for the Jaguars came from Francis-Rodrigues, who drove in two on a base-hit up the middle to take a 7-4 lead.

The momentum shift really helped Wright out in the circle as well. She threw in both games on the opening day of districts the week prior. Her pitch count for those two games was 207, and after the fifth inning against North Creek, she was already over that total.

Mottern-Salinas also recorded her second double of the game in the seventh inning and finished day one going 3-7 (2 2B, 2R, 2 RBI).

“She’s deserving. How can you not be excited about that? How can you not be fired up about that? She earned that sportsmanship award,” Eacret said.

“At the beginning there was a lot of pressure. I struggled at the plate a little in the first game. In the second game I tried letting myself go, and just be early. I focused on making base hits, contact and make sure I could score people,” Mottern-Salinas said.

Over the final two innings, Wright retired six out of seven and struck out five of those final Jaguars, securing a spot in the semifinals for the second straight season.

Kentwood took on District 3 rival Emerald Ridge, a team they are all too familiar with. Over the past two seasons, the Jaguars and Conks have danced four times with each other.

It was a heartbreaking way to go for the Conks, but their three-game win streak over Emerald Ridge was snapped in the eighth inning, losing 3-2 on May 25.

Sarah Wright made sure that she gave her team every bit of what she had in the tank. She came into the game with a sore arm and gave no quarter.

In the fourth, Emerald Ridge loaded the bases with no outs. Wright gave up one run on a ground out to first and kept it there and recorded the final out via strikeout.

Wright capped off her pitching career with a loss to the Jaguars, but reached an incredible milestone despite the loss. She struck out her 900th career batter as a Kentwood Conqueror.

“She knows the team is depending on her, but she also cares so much for her team. She wants just what they want and equally playing for them as she is for herself. I’ve seen her grow as a teammate that I am blown away by that,” Eacret said.

But the moment that Wright will look back on is her at-bat in the top of the seventh. With their backs against the wall, two outs and runners on second and third, down 1-0, Wright hit a line drive to center field over the head of the fielder for a two-out, two-run triple.

When all seemed lost, Wright was there to do the job and put the Conks in the driver’s seat for their first championship game since 1985.

But the Jaguars had other ideas. In the home half of the seventh with one out, Jayda Guadron tied the game with an impressive home run to dead center field. Then in the eighth with one out, a one out triple and safety squeeze sent the Jaguars to the championship.

Kentwood’s season came to a close in a hurry, the Conquerors took on Puyallup less than 30 minutes after losing to Emerald Ridge. After one inning Kentwood was leading 2-1, but the Vikings responded with 15 unanswered runs.

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Diya Thomas gives Coach Charlie Glenn a high-five against Emerald Ridge. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Diya Thomas gives Coach Charlie Glenn a high-five against Emerald Ridge. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sarah Wright dominated in state, striking out 52 batters over three games. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sarah Wright dominated in state, striking out 52 batters over three games. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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