Resilient North Kitsap juniors rally to reach state softball finals

Cadence Robles reaches down into the dirt to honor the memory of classmate Gee Still, who recently passed away in an accident. Kris Bartlett Courtesy Photos

Cadence Robles reaches down into the dirt to honor the memory of classmate Gee Still, who recently passed away in an accident. Kris Bartlett Courtesy Photos

From the coaches on down to the players, the North Kitsap junior All Stars run at the Washington state tournament was an example of how far will, spirit and determination paired with skill can take a team.

After suffering a 13-3 loss in the opener of the major softball tourney, the North Kitsap squad won four-straight coming up through the losers bracket to make it to the title game before falling to Kirkland.

“Most of these girls had the best attitudes of all the players I’ve coached,” manager Mackenzie Fisher said. “Even the girls who weren’t on my all-star team, but were on my Little League team, they were great too.”

In the first game, North Kitsap fell behind Mukilteo 6-0 before cutting the lead in half. After Ella Bottalico scored on an error, Kiana Delacruz delivered an RBI double, and Tegan Stanford followed with a triple to bring in another run. They were down just 6-3, but Mukilteo scored seven times in the final two innings.

“I was honestly happy that we were there in the first place,” Fisher said. “I told them, ‘As long as you’re playing your bad, I can’t get mad about it.’ ”

Overcoming that loss wouldn’t be easy. They would have to win four games in four days to make it to the final. But resilience was in this team’s DNA and that started with Fisher herself, who was seven months pregnant during the tournament.

”I love the game, what can I say?” Fisher said.

It was a little tough for her to muster up the energy needed to coach, but she was out there every day ready to hit grounders. Fisher said she was also able to lean on her assistant coaches, Matt Fisher and Clay Blackwood.

“When you coach a Little League team or select team, the girls want to be there,” Fisher said. “Seeing the difference in that is what kept me coaching. They were excited to participate and to show up to practice. The motivation they had was different.”

Many of the girls were also affected by the recent death of 14-year-old Kingston resident Giavanni “Gee” Still, who had been classmates with them since kindergarten. North Kitsap shortstop Cadence Robles wrote his initials in the dirt before each at bat in the tournament in his memory.

The NK All Stars regrouped and beat Battle Ground 17-5 the next day. They trailed 5-4 after four innings, but exploded for 13 runs in the final two innings. Stanford tripled home two runs to give North Kitsap the lead in the sixth and Bottalico, Kindness Williams and Reyna Blackwood each picked up multiple hits.

Their next win came against the team from the Northlake, North Bothell, Northshore and Woodinville little leagues, but unlike the previous games, North Kitsap jumped out to a huge lead early and never looked back.

Rachel Cole hit the first of her two triples to help North Kitsap to a 3-1 lead in the first inning. Bottalico delivered a home run to left to extend the lead to 5-1. Stanford’s RBI single brought home another run, and Delacruz’s single to center scored two more.

Stanford later hit her third triple of the tourney to drive in two more, and Olivia Chiquiti finished the game with two hits and four runs scored. North Kitsap won 15-8 and lived to see another day.

Coach Fisher called their 12-1, five-inning win over Whidbey Island their best game of the tournament. Cole allowed just one hit and struck out three, and also went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Robles hit an RBI double that tied the game at one in the second inning, and Sage Castle’s RBI single gave them the lead. North Kitsap scored four more runs in both the third and fourth innings and tacked on two more in the fifth to eventually invoke the mercy 10-run rule.

With a chance to get to the finals on the line, the North Kitsap offense stayed hot, beating Camas 19-11. Blackwood had four hits and three RBI, Delacruz picked up three hits and drove in four, Bottalico tripled twice and drove home three and Campbell Weible went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. North Kitsap scored in every inning but the last and racked up 17 hits.

The tournament finally came to an end last Thursday with a loss to Kirkland in the championship game, but North Kitsap walked away with a second-place finish and the memory of their incredible run.

“I hope they all come back because it would be awesome to see what they can do next year,” Fisher said.

North Kitsap Little League Junior All Stars manager Mackenzie Fisher hits grounders before the game.

North Kitsap Little League Junior All Stars manager Mackenzie Fisher hits grounders before the game.

Teagan Stanford was one of North Kitsap’s top hitters in the postseason.

Teagan Stanford was one of North Kitsap’s top hitters in the postseason.

More in Sports

Mark Krulish
Kraken hope slow and steady wins the race

The tortoise and the hare, one of Aesop’s fables, is one of… Continue reading

q
Kiwanis Park gets new disc golf putting green

It’s golf, but without the heavy clubs, carts and dress code, and… Continue reading

Chad Rounds, Jimmy Lee Burrus and Ryan Hough on the water at the completion of the Warrior Paddle. (Contributed photo)
Veterans paddle to raise awareness for mental health

Armed Forces veterans know what it means to face a challenge head-on.… Continue reading

Raul Ruidiaz tries to squeeze by a Sporting KC defender in Seattle’s 3-1 loss on Sunday at Lummen Field. (Mike Fiechtner/Sounders FC Communications)
Sounders win at Austin, lose at home, but stay in 1st

With a number of veteran players remaining out of the lineup due… Continue reading

The Bainbridge LL Senior All Stars were coached by Larry Goode and Life Horwitz. The players were: Christian Benze, McCrea Curfman, Garrett Goade, Conor Grady, Spencer Grady, Matthew Grant, Jack Grant, Ben Hobbs, Monty Horowitz, Judah Marshall, Andrew O’Connell, Isaac Sellers, Miles Wieland, Owen Bernstein and AJ Stevens. (Photo courtesy Ed Wieland)
BI baseball team that almost wasn’t goes 15-2

At the beginning of the Little League season, it looked like the… Continue reading

Mark Krulish
Krulish: 2021 sports season one we’ll never forget

It was likely the shortest high school sports season in state history,… Continue reading

New Seattle Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol listens during a news conference June, 24 in Seattle. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)
Seattle Kraken putting together NHL coaching staff

The Seattle Kraken inaugural season is rapidly approaching, and with the expansion… Continue reading

Ben Kussie digs out of the box for the Reds in the 18th annual old-timers and alumni Stars and Strikes game as MacKenzie Bond waits on deck. Bond tripled home Kussie in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and send it to extra innings. (Photo courtesy Paimon Jaberi)
Reds win BI’s Stars and Strikes game with walkoff double

Participants glad to be back after year off due to COVID

Dominic D’Amico makes the final out of the game at second base and avoids a collision with a Gig Harbor base runner in the District 2 championship. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
BI Little League majors capture district championship

Team advances to state in Redmond July 17

Jaynie Davis (3) makes the grab coming over from leftfield as Layla Baker backs her up. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
NK can’t flush away final 2 losses to Gig Harbor

The North Kitsap Little League Majors Softball All Stars had an unusual… Continue reading

The annual Stars and Strikes 
old-timers game will take place 
at noon July 4 at Bainbridge 
High School. 
Review file photo
Old-timers return to field in July 4 Stars and Strikes game

The “old-timers” are going to hit the diamond once again this year,… Continue reading