The 2017 Class 4 softball championship is shaping up to look a lot like it did last season and that’s just fine with Washington.
The Lady Jays (20-8) defeated Eureka (20-10), 12-1, Friday to earn its second consecutive district championship, the only two district softball titles in the school’s history. Their potential path through the first two rounds of the tournament are identical to last season, first facing Marquette (25-3) in the sectional round and then potentially the winner between Seckman (15-10) and Cor Jesu (16-14) in the quarterfinals.
This was just the second occasion where the Lady Jays knocked off Eureka, the first coming by a 1-0 score in the first week of the 2011 season. Eureka had ended the Lady Jays’ season five times in the previous eight years. The Lady Wildcats had won their district for five straight years prior to last season and defeated Washington 8-2 in a previous meeting this season on Sept. 1.
When Washington won the district last season, it did so without having to play Eureka, which had been upset by fourth-seeded Northwest in the district semifinals.
“Eureka has been the gold standard for our district,” Washington Head Coach Philip King said. “...Beating them like we did is awesome. It helps show the girls that we can play with any team.”
Washington struck first in the contest, notching two runs in the top of the second on third baseman Jena Monehan’s home run, her sixth of the season. She went 2-3 in the contest with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Monehan’s counterpart, Kileigh Grisham, answered with Eureka’s only run of the game on a solo shot in the bottom of the second.
The score remained 2-1 until the Jays rallied for three more in the top of the fifth.
In the midst of that rally, center fielder Nichole Brinker earned her third career record for the school, tying MC Landolt’s mark of 84, which was set in 2013. She went on to break the record with her 85th run the next inning. Brinker also set new career records for hits and stolen bases at Washington this season. She finished the game 2-4 with one RBI to go along with the two runs.
Washington blew the game open with a pair of two-run home runs from Ellie Quaethem and Taylor Hendrix in the top of the sixth. The Lady Jays scored seven runs total in that frame to extend the lead to 11 points and shut the door on Eureka in the bottom of the inning to win via the 10-run rule.
Hendrix remains one double shy of the school’s career record, 26, set by Logan Stapp in 2008. She went 2-3 Friday with a single and the home run. She also homered earlier that week in the final game of the regular season at Union Monday.
“I told her that she would have broke that record if she would quit hitting home runs,” King said.
The three home runs in the contest bring the team’s total to 15 on the season, five of which have come in the past three games.
“We have a deep lineup,” King said. “They always hit the ball hard. We have had power all year, it just is in the form of line drive doubles. They are playing very well at all aspects of the game right now. Hopefully the girls continue to play well for four more games.”
In addition to finding her power stroke with a home run in each of the team’s district games, Quaethem (14-4) also pitched the complete game in both outings. She has gotten the win in seven of her last eight starts in the circle.
Friday, Quaethem struck out five while allowing just the one run on four hits and two walks.
Caitlyn Vodnansky and Emma Piar-Shaw each notched a hit for the Lady Jays. Vodnansky drove in a pair of runs and Piar-Shaw plated one.