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Bearcats Beat Port Angeles for Second State Championship in Three Years

ABOVE: Lexie Strasser strikes out Port Angeles’ Sierra Robinson in the top of the seventh inning to end W.F. West’s 5-1 win in the State 2A championship game Saturday at Selah’s Carlon Park.

ANOTHER TITLE: Strasser’s Pitching, Haller’s Homer Lead Bearcats to 5-1 Win Over Port Angeles in State 2A Softball Championship

By Aaron VanTuyl
avantuyl@chronline.com

SELAH — The Bearcats had, for the most part, eschewed their scouting reports. Other than the basics, they didn’t feel like they needed to know too much about whoever was sitting in the other dugout or throwing from the other circle.
Going into Saturday’s State 2A championship game, then, they were unaware that Port Angeles pitcher Nizhani Wheeler had worked all three of the Roughriders’ games at Carlon Park without giving up a run.
“We wanted to play each game like it was the state championship,” Bearcat first baseman Ashlee Vadala explained. “So it if came down to it, we just kind of wanted to know what she threw, and we didn’t want to know any numbers or anything.”
Playing every game like it’s the state championship, it turns out, is an excellent strategy in the state championship game.
Kindra Davis’ first-inning RBI double ended the Roughriders’ shutout streak, and Kyndra Haller’s third-inning homer gave ace Lexie Strasser more than enough breathing room in a 5-1 win for the state championship.
It’s the second title in three years for W.F. West, and the third since 2012.
Strasser, a senior who played on the 2015 title team and the Bearcats’ 2014 state basketball championship, called the newest title her favorite.
“It’s just a really good feeling to pitch in the championship,” she said. “Especially when it’s 5-1.”
Strasser, who worked all 28 innings of the Bearcats’ four-game state run, was solid both days in Selah. The Central Washington University-bound righthander scattered six hits, walked one and struck out nine; Port Angeles’ only run came in the third, after a leadoff triple from Erin Edwards and an RBI single from Natalie Steinman, worked in around three strikeouts.
“She was amazing,” Haller, a senior second-baseman, said. “I think that’s the best she’s pitched all year, and she picked a good time.”
Strasser gave up four runs in four tournament games and struck out 29. She walked just one batter in 14 innings on Saturday, playing her best softball at the end of her prep career.
“As the weather got warmer, she got better,” Keen said. “And I think that’s a big thing with pitchers in general. They’ll get the blood flowing and feeling good and loose.”
Keen added he had no reservations or worries about the senior’s workload in the late-spring heat.
“If we did, we have a tremendous other pitcher (Vadala), that in normal years I’d probably piggy-back,” he said. “But Lexie’s just got so hot right now.”
And, as usual, the defense was solid and opportunistic behind her. Olivia Dean, at shortstop, caught a fly ball in shallow center field and quickly flipped it to Haller at second to double-up a runner who was a bit too casual in her return to the bag.
“I think everybody kind of rallies behind my pitching,” she said. “We don’t make a lot of errors. We’re always really focused, and we’re all confident, and just looking for the next play.”
Paetynn Lopez hit an RBI single in the first that gave the Bearcats a 2-0 lead. Haller’s shot came after a leadoff triple from Dean, a line drive that landed in left-center field.
Davis and Vadala hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth inning that scored another run, and Strasser, for the second time Saturday, ended a game with a strikeout to spark the celebration.
Davis finished 2 for 3, and W.F. West managed seven hits off Wheeler, who struck out eight and walked three. The Bearcats had seen the big right-hander twice before in state games, and Strasser had pitched against her in select games.
“We knew she threw hard, and knew she threw up and inside,” Keen said. “She’s like Lexie, in a way. And when we did have the opportunity to practice outside — all three times — we’d hit off our own pitching, so we’d hit off Lexie. So that helped.”
Port Angeles entered the game with a 23-1 record, and was playing in its first state championship game. The Bearcats, on the other hand, were making their 14th-straight trip to the state tournament, and finished the season with a 22-3 record.

Strasser, Bearcats Blank Ellensburg to Reach Finals
SELAH — Lexie Strasser was on fire, and W.F. West returned to the State 2A championship game.
Strasser held Ellensburg (22-2) to two hits here at Carlon Park Saturday morning in the semifinals of the State 2A Softball Tournament, and the Bearcats’ three-run first inning was more than enough offense in the 4-0 win.
W.F. West moved on to face Port Angeles in the finals, playing in its third championship since 2012. W.F. West beat Tumwater in the 2012 championship game, and beat White River — its quarterfinal opponent on Friday — in the 2015 title game.
The Bearcats scored three runs with two outs in the first, thanks to an RBI double from Ashlee Vadala, an RBI single from Paetynn Lopez and an RBI double from Strasser.
Ellensburg pitcher Kalli Fahey settled in after the first, holding the Bearcats without a hit until Kindra Davis’ single in the fifth. Vadala followed that up with an RBI single that scored the Bearcats’ final run.
Fahey struck out six, walked one and allowed seven hits in the loss.
Strasser, though, was perfect for 4 2/3 innings, before Morgan Olin singled to left field. Leadoff hitter Shauny Fisk beat out a ground ball to shortstop with two outs in the sixth for the Bulldogs’ only other baserunner.
Strasser finished with seven strikeouts — including the first four hitters she faced — and didn’t walk or hit a batter.

At Selah
BEARCATS 5, ROUGHRIDERS 1
Port Angeles 001 000 0 — 1 6 1
W.F. West 202 010 X — 5 7 1
Batteries: Port Angeles — Nizhani Wheeler and Lauren Lunt; W.F. West — Lexie Strasser and Paetynn Lopez

At Selah
BEARCATS 4, BULLDOGS 0
Ellensburg 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
W.F. West 300 010 X — 4 7 0
Batteries: Ellensburg — Kalli Fahey and Sierra Smith; W.F. West — Lexie Strasser and Paetynn Lopez

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