The road to the Class 4A state fastpitch championship wasn’t easy, but the Puyallup Vikings refused to be deterred in their quest for a first place trophy.
Puyallup went 4-0 at the state tournament at Merkel Park in Spokane, rattling off wins against Emerald Ridge, Snohomish, Woodinville and Walla Walla. The Vikings (28-2) defeated Walla Walla, 4-2, in the state championship game on May 31. Puyallup head coach Tony Batinovich said his team put together a tournament performance for the ages.
“The bottom line is the kids played their hearts out. This is a great memory they will have for the rest of their lives,” Batinovich said.
Batinovich said the key to the Vikings triumph in the title game came in the sixth inning with his team clinging to a 4-2 lead. Walla Walla had runners on second and third with just one out. Vikings’ ace pitcher Marissa Miller got out of the jam, striking out two Walla Walla hitters to quell the threat.
“That got the game sealed right there,” Batinovich said. “They didn’t threaten to score after that. Marissa threw a combination of pitches and totally fooled their last two batters.”
Miller, who will pitch for Pacific Lutheran University in the fall, pitched every single inning of the state tournament for the Vikings. She struck out 30 batters in four games and issued just two walks.
“Marissa just took it one game at a time and was really relaxed,” Batinovich said. “The title game against Walla Walla and the semifinal against Woodinville was the best I have seen her throw all year. She was focused on what she wanted this team to accomplish and got the job done with gusto.”
The Vikings’ bats also came alive throughout the state tourney. Emily Ensrud went 7-for-12, Bailey Plumb went 8-for-12 and Natalie Joyner went 6-for-10 with 7 RBI.
“Our team has consistently got on base and got timely hits,” the coach said. “We have a very deep team and it isn’t one player getting hits, it’s another player who picks it up. Everybody stepped up.”
Batinovich said conquering the bottom half of the bracket was an impressive feat.
“There were some really good teams that we beat,” he said. “We gave Snohomish only their second loss of the year, and Woodinville won the state title two years ago. Our team just persevered and did a great job. I told the girls after we won the state championship that nobody can ever take this away from you. It is something you will share together forever no matter what happens. Even 20 years down the road, they will remember how they felt on this day. We’re really excited to bring home the trophy to the community. It’s great for the program and the players that have played for the program in the past.”