Look deeper than the standings to find victories at Fort, and for all spring sport athletes
This was a championship softball season for the Fort Vancouver Trappers.
No matter what the standings suggest.
Those standings say the Trappers lost more than they won, but those standings cannot understand that those losses, specifically two of the defeats, were actually victories.
As long as winning is defined way beyond the final score.
“It has meant the world to me,” Ari Cousins said about being able to play sports again. “It has made high school for me. It wouldn’t be the same without playing sports everyday after school. I really felt the experience of being in high school. It’s moments that I won’t ever forget.”
The spring sports season of high school sports came to an end this past weekend for the small programs in Southwest Washington. District champions were crowned all over the region.
Don’t look for Fort Vancouver to be in any of the team sports championships. The Trappers weren’t there.
But if there is any sports year to celebrate every team that competes, not just the champions, it is this year. Today, we honor all teams, all athletes, by highlighting a team that did not win a lot. Only it did win a lot. Just by being out there.
Cousins will be a 12-letter athlete at Fort Vancouver: a slowpitch and fastpitch softball player as well as a cheerleader. She will also be a 12-letter winner who had one of her seasons completely taken away when spring sports was called off last year, her junior year, just a week or so into practice.
Then there were the months of speculation, months of concern. In the fall of her senior year, there was still no indication that sports would return.
Practice for an abbreviated fall sports season — slowpitch softball for Cousins — started in February. Then there was the fastpitch season.
“It’s a big deal,” Cousins said. “Just being out there is important to me. I grew up with this sport.”
She said it doesn’t matter if Fort Vancouver was one of the weaker teams or one of the best in the area. It’s the competition that matters.
“I just want to be out there,” she said. “It’s a stress relief. It’s getting away from our other problems. We might not have a prom. We might not have a graduation. But I was playing softball, and everything felt normal again.”
A year ago, had there been a softball season, it might have been the best at Fort Vancouver in years, Cousins said. Alas, those seniors graduated, and Fort was starting over this year.
In fact, the team did not always have enough players to field a full squad during some of the fall slowpitch season. Officially those games were forfeits, but the Trappers still got on the field, still competed against their opponents.
The key, Cousins said, is they still played.
Then in the fastpitch season, the Trappers had a number of first-year players who were put in the difficult position of playing on varsity. That can be scary, Cousins said, but those players all stepped up and did their best.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but little improvements mean a lot more to me now,” Cousins said. “I’m more grateful to my team than others might be. If we get an out, or if we get a double play, that’s a big deal. Any good play, that’s what we’re going to celebrate. Any improvement. Anything.”
They could even celebrate in defeat.
The Trappers played in one of the most unusual softball games in Clark County history. The Trappers found themselves down 17-3 going into the bottom of the fifth inning.
As coach Erick Johnson later tweeted, the Trappers needed five runs just to extend the game, to avoid the 10-run rule.
Fort scored 11 runs to make it 17-14.
Washougal responded in the sixth with three runs, and Fort added two in the bottom of the frame. After Washougal was held without a run in the top of the seventh, Fort scored four to tie the game.
“That was an incredible game. I don’t think I’ve seen the eighth inning ever,” Cousins said, adding that she would need to double-check that. “I don’t think I’ve seen the eighth inning at this school.”
She saw it that day.
But this incredible game story didn’t end just there. Washougal scored six in the top of the eighth inning to go up 26-20.
The Trappers still refused to give in, though. They scored five to put another scare into the Panthers.
Final score: Washougal 26, Fort Vancouver 25, 8 innings.
The winners? Well, the Trappers felt like winners that day, too.
“I was just so happy to be part of that,” Cousins said. “It felt like we were playing as Hockinson or Skyview or Ridgefield. It just felt like we were up there. We met our match. It was nice to be in the game and not being run-ruled. It was a great experience to see our team fight like that, like I’ve never seen before.”
Cousins will always have that memory as she prepares for life beyond high school. A Fort Vancouver student, she also attends Cascadia Tech for criminal justice. After graduation, the plan is to go to Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona to continue with criminal justice. She might even try out for the softball team there.
In Arizona, she will be able to tell new friends the Washougal story. Or the story of losing to a rival.
Fort Vancouver beat rival Hudson’s Bay twice this year but lost to the Eagles once. And again, it was in a losing effort that allowed the Trappers to experience a winning feeling.
Johnson posted on social media just how big the Fort-Bay rivalry is, in all sports. In recent years, Fort has had the upper hand in this softball rivalry. On that day, it was Bay’s turn. Johnson appreciated what it took for Bay to win and congratulated the Eagles.
His players felt the same way.
“I saw them,” Cousins said. “They had the Gatorade, dumping it on their pitcher. It was nice to see them happy, you know what I mean?”
This year, though, the games took on special significance. The final scores? The championships? Sure. They matter.
But Ari Cousins and the Fort Vancouver Trappers can attest that just getting to play, regardless of the results, meant something to the athletes.
The Trappers shared a bond with their opponents.
A bond that the final score cannot break.