LACEY — For the first time since 2004, the Klahowya softball team is state-bound.
If you weren’t there to watch the excitement, you might have been able to hear it at the end. A ground ball ricocheted off the turf and back to the pitching circle and into the glove of Amber Bumbalough. She fired to first base to throw out not only the runner but years of frustration.
Bumbalough spun around and let out a scream seconds before the on-field celebration ensued.
Making state was one of the final goals for Bumbalough, an accomplished high school player who will head to the challenging world of Division-I softball in the fall. Since it is the final season at Klahowya for both her and head coach Jodie Gagnon, who is leaving her coaching job after this season, the two talked before the season about getting one more shot at experiencing the state tournament together.
“Her and I talked about it before the season,” Gagnon said. “This was our goal together. I’m stepping down after this year and so I wanted this for her. I wanted this for the whole group.”
And what a sweet feeling it must have been to qualify while handing rival Coupeville a 7-4 loss in an elimination game. The Wolves beat the Eagles all three times they played this year, but Klahowya is the one headed to Columbia Playfield in Richland on Friday, May 25, where they open play against Castle Rock at noon.
Senior Emma Hough broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run double down the third base line. The Eagles scored three times that inning to take a 5-2 lead.
“I can’t believe I hit it,” she said. “I just changed my hitting strategy so to know how [well] it works for me is really great — and I’ll be using it for the rest of the season.”
However, with the Wolves scoring an average of eight runs per game this season, Klahowya knew it couldn’t rest on its laurels.
“What was going through my mind was, ‘We need to keep building,’ ” Bumbalough said after seeing her teammate’s tie-breaking double.
And keep building they did.
Klahowya added three more runs to extend its lead. Coupeville did manage two more runs over the final two innings, but it wasn’t enough and the Eagles walked away with the No. 2 seed from the district tournament.
“It feels amazing … to prove Kitsap County wrong,” Hough said. “Some people didn’t believe in us.”
The day did not start out so well for the Eagles. They lost their first game to eventual district champion Bellevue Christian, 11-2. Bumbalough’s two-run homer provided the only offense they could muster.
But Klahowya rebounded and reached the second-place game after thrashing Vashon Island, 11-1. Junior Kayla Hendricks hit a pair of triples in that contest.
— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at Jmoore@soundpublishing.com or follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.