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Raider softball relishes underdog role, heads back to state
By CASEY OLSON
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders are state-bound.
For the second time in the history of the TJ girls fastpitch program, the Raiders will be playing at the Class 4A State Tournament. After losing their opening-round game Friday morning at the West Central District Tournament, the Raiders racked up three victories in a row to snare the fourth seed into this weekends state tournament at the South End Recreational Area (SERA) fields in Tacoma. Jefferson entered the West Central District Tournament as the ninth and final seed from the South Puget Sound League after finishing fourth in the North Division.
The Raiders open the state tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday against the Mountain View Thunder from Vancouver. Mountain View is a team that has gotten hot at the right time. The Thunder finished in fourth place during the Greater St. Helens League regular season with a record just one game over .500, but they put together a perfect 3-0 record at the District 4 Championships to earn the leagues automatic berth into the state tournament. Included in those wins was a victory over the defending state champion Prairie Falcons.
Mountain View is a team that features a pair of strong pitchers in Kelly Lowe and Kendra Suhr. Lowe, a sophomore, was perfect through five innings in the GSHL championship game against Evergreen, a 4-1 win, and struck out 10.
But the Raiders also got some strong pitching at last weekends ultra-competitive West Central District Tournament at Sprinker Park in Spanaway.
After allowing six runs to Central Kitsap in their 6-1 opening-round loss, Jefferson pitchers Jill Halvorsen and Jessica Dickson allowed just two more runs during the Raiders three wins.
Jefferson beat Kentridge Friday afternoon in a loser-out game, 7-0, and then came back to the Sprinker fields Saturday morning to down Curtis, 11-1, in five innings to guarantee themselves a berth into the state tournament. The Raiders then ended the tournament by beating up Gig Harbor later in the day, 15-1, in the fourth/sixth game.
Against Kentridge, TJs offense pounded out 12 hits and scored five runs in the first three innings to bury the Chargers. Sophomore sensation Jayme Carbon finished 2-for-4 with a run and RBI, Erin Fujita was 3-for-4 with a double, run and RBI and Stephanie Ogle ended up 3-for-4 with an RBI. Senior catcher Shawntay Thong had a solo home run in the fifth. Halvorsen and Dickson combined on the four-hit shutout. Dickson relieved Halvorsen in the sixth inning.
The Raiders were never really threatened against Curtis in the winner-to-state, loser-out game. After giving up a run in the top of the first, TJ exploded for 11 unanswered runs to win the game in five innings. Fujita finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, Ogle was 3-for-4 and Carbon had an RBI.
The Gig Harbor game turned from a pitchers dual to a blowout in the top of the fourth. With the game tied 0-0, TJ tallied 15 runs in their final four at bats and were aided by six Tide errors. Ogle finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a home run and Brittany Still was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Raiders just couldnt get anything going in their opener against Narrows League champion Central Kitsap. The Cougars tallied two runs in the first, two in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead. Carbon knocked in TJs only run of the game in the seventh. The sophomore finished 2-for-4 with an RBI.
The West Central District has been the Raiders nemesis for a long time. Jefferson has qualified for the postseason in 10 of their last 11 seasons, but only advanced out of the district tournament the one time in 2002. During that state tournament, the Raiders won their first two games a 1-0 win over Eastlake and a 5-4 win over Marysville-Pilchuck to roll into the semifinals. But Jefferson was then shut out in their final two games by Kentridge (1-0) and Lake Stevens (3-0) to finish out of the trophy hunt.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com