Union Titans and Battle Ground Tigers heading to Yakima for two-day event later this week
Avery Thamert called it a life-changing event, going to state with the Union Titans slowpitch softball team when she was a sophomore.
Now a senior, she and the Titans have earned another trip to state.
“I’ve been with the program all four years. When I joined my freshman year, I had no idea it would go this far,” Thamert said. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of something, part of a team that is so close-knit and plays so well together.”
The Titans earned a No. 3 seed in the eight-team tournament. They will play No. 6 Moses Lake at noon Friday in the opening round at Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima. Battle Ground also qualified for state and received the No. 8 seed. The Tigers face No. 1 Chiawana at noon Friday.
The semifinals are also Friday, with the championship game set for 2 p.m. Saturday. With consolation play, as well, four teams will earn trophies.
Union beat Battle Ground last week in the district championship game. The Titans also were the top 4A team in the county in the abbreviated COVID season, which means Union has a three-year reign in the region.
Slowpitch softball made a return to different regions throughout the state a handful of years ago and non-sanctioned state tournaments were held. The fall sport became sanctioned by the WIAA and in 2019, the sanctioned state tournament returned.
Union finished second in the 2019 tourney.
Now the Titans get another shot.
“It’s just something to be proud of,” Union coach Rashell Teague said. “It’s something that these girls in the last few years have set that bar of what our program is and will be for future years. It’s all just exciting. All of it.”
The coach added that it means everything to make it back to state, especially after a year with no state tournament.
“The girls have worked so hard in the last couple of years,” Teague said. “They have brought slowpitch into the competitive world. We are competitive, and it’s fun.”
Senior Jasmin Adams is ready for one last weekend with this team.
“I know not a lot of teams get to experience this,” Adams said. “I feel really honored to be going again.”
She talked about the road trip, the hotel stay, and team meals. It is not only about playing the game. It is about creating memories.
“My expectations are to just show up as a team and play our best,” Adams said. “That’s really all I could ask for. I’m so excited for this experience to be happening again.”
Adams also plays fastpitch in the spring for the Titans.
“During slowpitch, I can really slow down and think about my actions and how to improve,” Adams said.
Thamert only plays slowpitch nowadays. She played fastpitch in youth ball.
“It got a little too intense for me,” Thamert said. “That’s why I love slowpitch. It’s really low key. It feels good to win, but winning isn’t everything.”
Thamert is playing for two schools at state this weekend. She plays sports for the Union Titans, but she is a student at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School. She said she appreciates representing both schools.
“I really like that feeling,” she said. “I’m a very science-based student, but I like feeling like I have that athletic ability, as well.”
The Battle Ground Tigers are heading to Yakima, as well.
“What makes Battle Ground, our program, so special is we don’t have any Battle Ground varsity fastpitch players playing,” coach Rachel Gray said. “It’s a mix of JV fastpitch players, tennis players, and exchange students who have never played before.”
Gray called the Tigers a perfect combination of athletes who want to work hard.
“They ask to have Saturday practices. They ask to work after practices. They are so willing to go the extra time, to go the distance,” Gray said. “They completely deserve to go to state because they have put the time in to do it.”
The Tigers are led defensively by freshman shortstop Lorelei Brown. Gray said she has incredible softball intelligence and can make any play.
On offense, Haylee Newton, a senior, is the clean-up hitter.
“Just one of those players who steps up to bat and you know she’s going to get a good hit or drive girls in,” Gray said. “Great swing.”
And a leader on the team is Kaylee Sharrow, a four-year player on the team.
“She’s like having another coach with you,” Gray said. “We plug her wherever we need her. She can play every position. Great bat. Even better person. One of the nicest and best human beings I’ve ever met.”
Gray coaches with her husband Brodie, and together they love helping this group of athletes achieve their goals.
The team practices on a dirt field. No turf at Battle Ground.
“They’re practicing in the dirt and the mud, the old-fashioned way,” Gray said. “It embodies Battle Ground girls. They’re tough.”
Note: No Clark County team qualified for the 3A/2A state tournament. Kelso and R.A. Long are representing Southwest Washington at that tournament.