By Jacob Moore
Kitsap News Group
RICHLAND — The Klahowya softball team’s season came to an emotional end Saturday when the Eagles lost a 10-5, extra-inning heartbreaker to Connell. Had one call gone differently, though, the tears could have been ones of joy rather than sorrow.
Junior Kayla Hendricks re-entered the contest in the bottom of the 10th inning with a golden opportunity to send her team on to the next round. Hendricks hit a dribbler down the first base line, presumptively scoring the winning run. The ball bounced fair over the bag and off the first baseman’s glove.
Senior Emma Hough, who was on third base, flew home and the celebration was on — but it was short-lived. The home plate umpire threw his hands up and called it a foul ball. What could have capped a monstrous comeback win abruptly changed the momentum of the contest.
After the game, Eagles head coach Jodi Gagnon said the home plate umpire told her during the game that he made a mistake by calling the ball foul.
A half inning later, Connell took advantage of the bad call by tagging senior pitcher Amber Bumbalough for five runs, cementing what would become a 10-5 win over Klahowya.
While the season came to a abrupt end, it was nevertheless a fun ride for an Eagles team who made the state tournament for the first time since 2004.
“I’m very proud of them and I told them afterwards, ‘I wouldn’t want to be standing here with anybody else,’ ” Gagnon said. “It was a magical experience. We haven’t done this for 14 years and this is the crew I wanted to do it with.”
The team’s “never-quit” attitude was on display in their final game despite the loss. Klahowya began chipping away at a 5-1 deficit in the bottom of the fourth inning. By the seventh, it was 5-4. The Eagles needed one run to force the match into extra frames.
“We aint done yet, we aint done yet,” Bumbalough told her teammates as they trotted back to the dugout in the bottom of the seventh. And she was correct.
Bumbalough came up in what was potentially her final high school at bat, and destroyed a pitch to center field. It left the yard and Klahowya completed the comeback to knot the game at five.
Despite the unfortunate end to the game, that was a memorable moments for fans that made the journey from Silverdale and had seen their teams lose 11-1 to Castle Rock just hours before.
The Eagles couldn’t get the engine running offensively until the fourth inning as the Rockets retired the first nine batters faced.
And even when Klahowya looked like it was starting to figure out Castle Rock’s starting pitcher, a 1-5-2-6 double play ended the Eagles’ best chance at compiling a comeback.
Senior Karli Eberhard laid down a bunt with Bumbalough on third base, drawing a throw from the circle. Bumbalough was then called out on a slide over home plate while Eberhard took off for second. She was also called out to end the inning.
Bumbalough, Hough and Eberhard each played their final games in the state tournament as they are all set to graduate. The Eagles might be losing their head coach as well. Gagnon, who previously said she was stepping down after the season’s conclusion, mentioned that is probably going to happen because she wants to see her sons play ball.
“I have a son who is going to be a senior and another that’s a freshman, and I haven’t watched my son play all four years,” she said. “It’s time I get to watch my kids play. There’s a chance they’ll be on the field together next year and I can’t miss that as a mom.”
If Gagnon does step down from her role, she’ll be leaving big shoes to fill having achieved her goal of helping Klahowya reach the state tourney.
Next year’s team will almost certainly have a different look without their main pitcher in Bumbalough as well as Hough, who caught her all four years. Eberhard will also be missed, and she proved why in her final game, recording a multi-hit performance.