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SOFTBALL: Jefferson headed back to the state tournament for fourth-straight season
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders have developed into one of the top fastpitch programs in Washington. For the fifth time in the last six years and fourth in a row, TJ will play at the Class 4A State Fastpitch Tournament.
The Raiders (24-4) finished in third place at last weekend's West Central/Southwest District Tournament, where Jefferson's 18-game winning streak came to an end with a 9-7 semifinal loss to Rogers.
The Raiders finished 3-1 at the district tournament, which was held Friday and Saturday at the Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway. Sixth-ranked Jefferson will travel to Spokane's Merkel Park for the Class 4A tournament.
The Raiders will open at 10 a.m. against Central Valley from Spokane. The Bears are the third seed out of the Eastern Washington regional after losing to Walla Walla in the semifinals, 10-0. Central Valley won the Greater Spokane League title and beat Mead in the third/fourth game, 9-1, at regionals.
The Bears are led by sophomore Carli Riodan, who struck out 15 on the mound and drove in five, including a home run, in the win over Mead. Senior catcher McKenzie Shea belted a pair of home runs in the game.
The winner of the TJ-Central Valley game will play the winner of a contest between Kentlake and Monroe at 4 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals. The two losers will play at 2 p.m.
At the ultra-competitive West Central/Southwest District Tournament, the Raiders seemed to be in total control of the semifinal against Rogers Saturday. Jefferson jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first and led 5-2 into the fifth inning. But Rogers tallied seven runs in their final three at-bats to walk away with the win.
Offensively, the Raiders finished with nine hits. Senior centerfielder Lexi Goranson finished 2 for 4 with a home run, triple, two RBIs and two runs.
Goranson's solo home run in the bottom of the fifth gave TJ a 6-5 lead. But Rogers scored three in the top of the sixth to take the lead for good. Michaela Patton was 2 for 4 with a triple and two runs and Bailey Rundle and Reno Whitcomb both had two hits for TJ.
The Raiders fought back in the third/fourth game to beat Emerald Ridge, 9-5, later on Saturday. Jefferson scored five in the bottom of the fourth to blow the game open.
Annalise Campbell finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a run and Alex Rodriguez, Rundle and Whitcomb all had two hits for TJ. Katie Jackson earned the win on the mound, scattering nine hits.
The Raiders earned the state tournament berth Friday at Sprinker with a pair of 7-3 wins over Union and Kentlake.
The victory over Kentlake was TJ's second-straight against the Falcons, who won the SPSL North Division title and beat the Raiders twice during the regular season.
Jefferson tallied two runs in the first and two more in the fourth to go up 4-0. The Raiders got a pair of RBIs from Gornanson and Nicole Greenheck was 2 for 3 with a triple, two RBIs and a run. Whitcomb was 2 for 4 with an RBI and run.
Against Union, the Raiders jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Titans tallied all three of their runs in the sixth. Goranson had another big game, finishing 3 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs. In total, Groranson ended up 5 for 6 in Friday's two games, with six RBIs.
Campbell, Patton and Whitcomb also had a pair of hits against Union and Jackson got the win.