Papermakers open postseason Friday, looking to reach state tourney
CAMAS — When she first made a name for herself at the varsity level in high school softball, she really did not make a full name for herself.
For whatever reason, the team’s online roster only listed her first name, Kennedy, when she was a sophomore.
The joke became she was so good, she only needed one name, such as a famous international soccer player.
Those closest to her had a different theory.
“It was mainly my family that gave me a hard time about it. ‘You’re like a nobody,’ they said.”
They were just joking, of course.
Nobody thinks Kennedy Ferguson is a nobody.
Now, everyone in the softball community knows her full name. They also know that Ferguson, a senior, has been known to be perfect at times.
Ferguson led Camas to another Class 4A Greater St. Helens League championship this season and was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. She also swings a big bat for the Papermakers.
Today, the Papermakers begin the postseason with two games in the bi-district tournament. Camas opens against South Kitsap at 4:30 p.m. in Kent. There are a number of ways for Camas to qualify for the state tournament but the easiest scenario is to just win two games Friday.
Getting to state is the priority now, but that was not always the goal this season. The Papermakers did not know exactly how good they could be coming into the campaign. After graduating five key seniors in 2017, the 2018 season was not a “state-or-bust” mentality, at least not at the start. Having an ace pitcher such as Ferguson means a softball team will always be competitive, but these Papermakers had to find the right chemistry, the right roles for everyone on the team.
“The goal was to improve, have fun, learn the way of the game,” Ferguson said. “Show them the Camas way, how to represent our school. We’re here for the school, not for ourselves. We have a name to stand for and everyone plays for the community.”
The Papermakers, who started 3-2 in league play, won their final seven league games to win the title.
Ferguson heads into the postseason with a 1.28 earned run average with 238 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched. She is 23 strikeouts away from the school record for a season. She also delivers with her bat, hitting .463 with a team-high five home runs — one off the school record.
She is not afraid to acknowledge she wants both records.
The Papermakers have at least two more games this season, but they expect to play in several more.
“I’m very competitive in whatever I’m doing. I want to be better than everybody else. In my mind, it’s time for it to be broken,” she said of the strikeout mark. “I want it to be mine. It’s a competition in itself.”
She also is thinking of the future of the program.
“Having a goal, to beat someone else, gives you more of a reason to work on something,” she said. “If I can get somebody to hopefully beat my record someday, it would show that someone loves the game just as much.”
As far as the home run record, that is something that never really entered her mind … until a few weeks ago. She said she was not a really good hitter in high school.
“I thought I was allergic to the bat,” she said with a laugh.
She decided to stop trying to overanalyze her swing.
“Hitting is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,” she said. “If your head is not in it, you’ll never touch the ball. Now it’s just see ball, hit ball.”
Of course she is known more for making others see ball, miss ball.
In the final week of the regular season, Ferguson threw a five-inning perfect game. It could be described as a perfect, perfect, perfect game, too.
Perfect 1: She faced 15 batters and not a single one reached base. Fifteen up. Fifteen down.
Perfect 2: She struck out all 15 batters.
Perfect 3: She had a perfect inning, too. Nine pitches, three strikeouts.
“You don’t see that very often,” Ferguson said.
Breaking tradition, an assistant coach told Ferguson she had a perfect game in the middle of the game. There was no jinx, though.
“Everything was working. I got the feeling, ‘I’m literally unstoppable right now.’ When he told me, I knew I couldn’t let up. It brought my focus up even more.”
After the game, teammate Payton Bates dumped a bucket of ice water over Ferguson to celebrate. The Papermakers also got a laugh out of the fact that only Ferguson and catcher Abby Wong were needed on defense that day.
Ferguson is quick to point out, though, that she needs all of her teammates, all of the time. Their ability, she said, gives her the confidence to stay aggressive from the pitching circle.
“When I have the defense behind me, these girls behind me, and they want to compete as much as I do, it brings everybody’s ‘A’ game,” Ferguson said. “We come together as one instead of as individuals.”
The Papermakers are starting the postseason today which means the end of Ferguson’s high school career is fast approaching.
“I feel like I was a freshman yesterday,” she said. “It’s crazy that it’s almost over.”
Her softball career has years left, though. She has signed with the University of New Mexico.
Ferguson had an offer from a Division II program but jumped at the chance to become a Lobo. She had been told, after all, that she was too short to be a Division I pitcher.
“I didn’t fit that image,” she said of her 5-foot, 5-inch frame.
Ferguson said she was proud of herself on signing day last November.
Since then, she has tried not to think about college. The focus, instead, is senior year, Camas softball. For the Papermakers. For the community.
Getting to state, earning a trip to Spokane, would be the perfect finish for Kennedy Ferguson, a full name that will be remembered at Camas.