Kirkland walked — or even stomped — along the comeback trail at the state tournament.
Although Snohomish handed the locals their first loss and bumped them into the loser’s bracket, that didn’t mean they were done. Not even close.
After beating Camas, 16-4, to stay alive, Kirkland’s major softball all-stars faced Snohomish again and won twice to notch the state title for the second time in three years by scores of 2-1 in eight innings and 8-3 in the championship game on July 8 in Vancouver.
“The state tournament was a long week for us but we stayed committed the entire time. With Fourth of July falling right in the middle of the tournament, most of us stayed in the Vancouver area for nine days,” said manager Chris Cook.
Kirkland advances to the Western Regionals in San Bernardino, California, which begins July 21 with a game against Alaska. All of the regional games will be streamed on the ESPN app.
Cook said it was gratifying for the girls to beat Snohomish twice and gave them a shot of confidence for Western Regionals. Most of the girls have played together the last three years and that unity translated into a third straight District 9 title last month for the Kirkland majors all-stars team.
“Everyone from top to bottom contributed in this tournament and we have high hopes in San Bernardino,” Cook said.
In the 2-1 win over Snohomish, Kirkland relied on the pitching arms of Kya Aldrich (six innings) and Christina Minor (the final two innings), who escaped a bases-loaded, no-out inning with solid pitching and defense. Hailey Story blasted a hit in the bottom of the eighth inning to score Kaidance Caiola and win it for the locals.
“I think we were all fired up just walking onto the field. I think we knew that we could do it if we really put our hearts into the game,” said Ashlyn Cook.
In the championship game, Kirkland fell behind 3-0 in the first inning, but rallied for four runs of their own in the second inning and rolled to victory from there. Defensive stalwarts for Kirkland — which turned two double plays — were Story, who caught all 14 innings of the doubleheader, and infielders Bella Ely and Cook. Offensively, Cook, Ely and Minor all hit over .500 during the tournament, and Minor was a fixture on the basepaths with a .730 percentage.
“Once we won the first game, I believed that we were gonna win the second game, but they scored three on us and we were kind of getting nervous,” said Caiola, who noted with a smile that her mom knew they could triumph, but didn’t say it out loud.
Ashlyn Cook said trailing by three runs motivated them to unleash an offensive surge and win the title.
Caiola said the players’ closeness gives them an advantage because they know how everyone plays and can trust each other to give the team a boost.
“So if we got down, then we could expect other people to help,” she said.
Added Ashlyn Cook: “It’s really special to be a part of the team because we’re all really passionate about softball, so when we work together it’s just really fun. I’ve learned about friendship and how this game kind of factors into everyday life and teamwork.”
Interacting with teammates over the years brought the once-quiet Caiola out of her shell and has her thriving on the softball field. She’s looking forward to traveling to San Bernardino and staying in the dorms.
“Having practice and having to travel is a lot more exciting than sitting down and texting people,” Caiola said. “And I actually get to hang out with my friends.”
The squad has a funding page at: https://www.gofundme.com/help-kirkland-softball-to-regionals