Juanita’s softball players gather during a game earlier this week. Courtesy of Gayle Richardson

Juanita softball scores state berth

It came down to the wire, and Juanita’s softball team rose to the occasion.

With a 4-2 victory over Kamiakin in a 3A crossover contest on May 20, the Rebels qualified for the state tournament.

Juanita will open state against Yelm at 9 a.m. Friday at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.

“I think it was a lot of teamwork, and we all stayed really positive throughout districts, especially with the help of our pitchers. We really just pulled through,” said Sasha Mitchell, who plays third base.

Mitchell said the nerves were lurking around the team, even in the last inning against Kamiakin, but the Rebels overcame them.

For Juanita (14-12 overall), Lexi Blackburn wielded the big bat with three hits and four RBIs at the Southwest Athletic Complex in Seattle.

“I struggled the last couple games and I put a lot of pressure on myself for the team. Coming out with all those RBIs, that was really important for me and that felt pretty good,” said Blackburn, who plays first base.

Kristina Warford, Jordan Schroeder and Briar Swayne all had one hit each for the Rebels. Warford scored two runs and Mitchell and Brynn Radke crossed the plate for the Rebels as well.

Pitcher Megan Murray earned the win and Kaci Gordon snagged the save.

“A lot of (the success) comes from the support of my teammates. I don’t think I could do it without them,” said Murray, noting that the Rebels’ defense is solid.

Murray, too, said the Kamiakin game was nerve-racking, “but I thought it was a lot of fun because I knew that we’d be able to pull through no matter what. Everybody was super excited.”

Blackburn added that since the Rebels are a close-knit team off the field, that have-fun, stay-loose chemistry translates into big moments on the field.

In 3A SeaKing District games last week, Juanita first split a pair of games, a 6-5 loss to Holy Names Academy and a 16-3 win over Ballard. The Rebels then lost 8-6 to Garfield.

Against Ballard, Warford had three hits — including a homer — and six RBIs and Mitchell had three hits and one RBI.

Juanita’s meeting with Holy Names was a nail-biter with the game coming down to the last inning.

Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Holy Names scored two runs, including a walkoff single, to earn the victory.

Warford had four hits and Schroeder had two hits and three RBIs for Juanita.

In the roller-coaster-like game against Garfield, Juanita led 5-3 after three innings and Garfield tied it up 5-5 in the sixth. From there, Garfield scored three runs in the top of the seventh and Juanita tallied once in the bottom of the inning.

For Juanita, Warford had two hits and Mitchell had two hits and two RBIs.

Juanita began districts with a 22-8 win over Bishop Blanchet.

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