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Juanita Rebels place fifth at state softball tournament
The Juanita High School softball team finished the 2013 season in a tie for 5th place at the State 3A tournament in Lacey, May 24-25.
The road to state included winning the Sea-King District title on May 16, the KingCo 3A tournament on May 10, and the KingCo 3A/2A regular season crown.
The Rebels’ season did not start so auspiciously, with the team losing four of their first five games by narrow margins. A 4-run 7th inning rally to defeat Liberty on March 21 was the catalyst to turn the season around. That come from behind victory was the first of five straight, with the only further conference setback a second loss to Mt. Si on April 9.
Two close but solid wins against a strong Lake Washington team were highlights of the stretch run to the KingCo 3A/2A title, and a final 12-2 regular season conference record.
Moving into post-season play, Juanita took the KingCo 3A tournament edging Mercer Island, and then taking the No. 1 district seed with a strong win over regular season nemesis Mt. Si. The momentum continued at Sea-King Districts with successive strong wins over Seattle Prep, Bishop Blanchet and Holy Names.
The Rebels used their No. 1 seed at 3A State to advantage, defeating Bonney Lake in the opener. Eventual state runner-up Prairie (Vancouver) upended Juanita in game two, powered by three home runs.
Juanita bounced back on the other side of the bracket to eliminate fellow KingCo squad Interlake and then Shorecrest, before ultimately falling to eventual 3rd place finisher Meadowdale (Lynnwood). The final season tally for the Rebels was 22-8.
Head Coach Kristian Dahl summed the season up, saying “This season was a season of surprises, the expectation of our team this year was very low. Nobody thought we could get out of our league, let alone win the league and districts … We had a number of seniors that stepped up for us this season: Cami Pettengill, Molly Steck, Katie Kent, Dani Faist, Abbie Oswald, Johanna Smith, and Kelsey Camilleri-Espinoza. Without their leadership and game play, this season would not have been possible.” Oswald earned KingCo 3A/2A MVP honors.
Oswald and Faist powered the top of the batting order with 49 and 44 hits, respectively. Steck was the RBI leader with 36 for the season. Junior Morgan Figueroa, recently committing to play at Fordham University, had an outstanding year at the plate and in center field, leading the team with a 0.552 on-base percentage and 23 stolen bases.
Kent, despite injuries that limited playing time, showed tremendous senior leadership all season. Faist and Steck anchored the middle infield defense with rock solid play. Sophomores Aimee Richardson and Madison Hedlund added pop to the batting order and strong gloves to the defense. Freshmen Talia Starr and Clare Sovacool each contributed with stints at catcher and third base, respectively.
With former Juanita pitching standout Allison Rhodes now playing for Notre Dame, Dahl had big shoes to fill in the circle this season.
“Our biggest surprise came from junior pitcher Milly Kawabata, who did a phenomenal job keeping hitters off balance all season. We hitched up our wagon to Milly and said if you lead we will follow and she did so without hesitation,” said Dahl.
Kawabata finished the season with a 1.78 ERA. Hedlund and freshman Lisa Nelson also had significant innings, with Nelson leading the team in strikeouts during the regular season.
Dahl was quick to credit assistant coach KC Crowder for her contributions.
“KC has prepared our outfielders to play such great consistent ball all season... I could not have made it through the season without her keeping my head out of the clouds and making great game time decisions.”
Dahl added, “I’m so incredibly proud of this team, I can’t put into words what they mean to me.”