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STATE SOFTBALL: Raiders end season with fourth-place finish | SLIDESHOW
A road trip to Spokane for the 4A state fastpitch tournament was so much more than that for Thomas Jefferson's fastpitch team.
It had been a decade since the Raiders won in the first round in a season in 2002 when that team was immensely successful — except the squad didn't bring home hardware.
This year was different thanks to an opening round 7-4 victory over Central Valley and a second round win 10-8 nail biter against Monroe which propelled Jefferson into a semifinal against defending state champion Walla Walla.
"I've always talked about tradition with the girls," said Jefferson coach Chad Fahnlander. "This is the one group that wanted to take that tradition and do better. They didn't just want to make it to state, they wanted to place."
In the double elimination tournament, that goal seemed in doubt when Walla Walla took an early 6-0 lead, but an five-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth for Jefferson had the Raiders two runs and three outs away from the state title game and assured of a top-four placing.
"It was basically our players, the players came in and said, 'We're not going to go down like this,'" Fahnlander said. "Let's make some memories in this semifinal game."
Instead, Walla Walla put up two more runs in the top of the seventh while Jefferson mustered one more in the bottom half, putting the Raiders into the loser's bracket.
Jefferson bounced back with a 3-0 win over Central Valley and assured the team of a trophy, the first time the program has brought one home in fastpitch.
In the final game of the tournament for third and fourth, Jefferson ran out of gas, losing to Richland 13-3.
Still, the fourth place finish was what the team wanted to accomplish when the girls stepped onto the bus to head out to Spokane, and Jefferson can add that to its South Puget Sound League title as it capped off one of the best seasons the Raiders have put together in fastpitch in a decade.
"It's been an awesome season," Fahnlander said.