CHIMACUM — The chorus might be the same, but it never gets old for the Chimacum softball team.
Another spring, another trip to the Class 1A state tournament for the Cowboys, who locked up their latest bid with a 9-6 come-from-behind win over Orting in Friday’s 1A Nisqually League championship game.
That’s eight state berths in a row for a team that also hasn’t lost a game to a Nisqually League opponent the last three seasons.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” said Cowboys senior Samantha Benner, Friday’s hero with three RBIs and two runs scored.
“Coming into this game we knew if we won this we were going to have four years [of reaching state as players], and that was an accomplishment we really wanted to get.
“It was definitely just as exciting as the first time.”
Benner led a group of seven Chimacum seniors in the final home game of their careers, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a two-run triple and RBI single.
Fellow senior Lacey Carter was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, while pitcher Brittany Nelson rebounded from a five-run first inning to hold Orting to one run in the final six frames and earn her tenth win of the season.
“It feels great [to get back to state],” said Nelson, who was named the 1A Nisqually MVP earlier this week. “This is my fourth time, so it’s really awesome.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way. The excitement keeps going.”
The Cowboys play the Northwest District’s top seed in a Tri-District seeding semifinal Saturday.
The winner of that game will play the Sea-King District’s No. 1 for the first and second seed to state.
The semifinal loser receives the Tri-District’s third seed.
“When we come out on Day 1, we’re taking about [going to state],” Cowboys coach Bobby Cossell said.
“The season . . . we look at it as practice basically, because it’s all geared up so that we can be playing well in May.
“You get a senior group like this, and they want to get back there. That’s their mentality.”
That would make Friday’s win the perfect preparation, because it sure didn’t come easy against a game Orting squad.
Chimacum spotted the Cardinals five runs in the first inning thanks in large part to two costly errors and a pair of walks from Nelson.
Yet Nelson and the Cowboys defense quickly rebounded, holding the Cardinal bats at bay during the next five innings as their own slowly chipped away at the lead.
Benner got the Cowboys on the board in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to right field.
After Krista Hathaway and Kailey Castillo reached base to open the fifth, Benner hit a shot over the left fielder’s head for a two-run triple.
“When I first hit it I thought it was going to get caught,” Benner said. “I was just focussed on getting to third [after realizing it was going to drop].
“I just wanted to get as many bases as I possibly could.”
Benner’s determination paid off immediately, with Natasha Kiesel bringing her in on a delayed squeeze bunt the very next at bat.
Chimacum tacked on two more runs that inning, with Carter smashing another double that scored the tying and go-ahead runs for a 6-5 edge.
The Cowboys put the game away an inning later with three runs, two coming on a two-out single from Nelson.
“[That win]’s really good for us going into state,” Benner said.
“During league we don’t get as much pressure, so a game like that really gets us prepped for state.
“We were behind but we didn’t ever let down and we came back and won. That’s what our team does. We don’t ever give up.”
Few know that better than Orting coach Tyler Polly, whose Cardinals have twice seen leads disappear against the Cowboys this season.
“My team, they’ve got this monkey on their back,” Polly said. “Every time they come here Chimacum always finds a way to win no matter what they do.
“Any time you go up against them you know they are not going to get rattled and you’ve got to play all seven innings.
“I expect these girls to do well [at state]. I’ll be surprised if they don’t place this year.”
Nelson gave up one last run in the seventh, finishing with one earned run on six hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
“I thought she was a little amped up early, a little nervous,” Cossell said.
“With a couple of errors out there, she can kind of lose her way a little bit, but we kept her composed.
“Then she settled down and cruised the rest of the game.”
Castillo added two runs scored for the Cowboys, who got hits from seven different players off Orting starter Courtney Dodd.
“They had lots of chances to quit, and they didn’t,” Cossell said.
Chimacum 9, Orting 6
Orting 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 – 6 6 2
Chimacum 0 0 1 0 5 3 0 — 9 9 4
WP- B. Nelson; LP- Dodd
Orting: Dodd 6IP (9hits, BB, 8ER, 6K).
Chimacum: B. Nelson 7IP (6hits, 2BB, ER, 8K).
Orting: Dodd 1-3 (2RBI, R); Senf 1-1 (2B, R); Fischer 1-3 (RBI).Chimacum: Benner 2-4 (3B, 3RBI, 2R); Carter 2-3 (2B, 2RBI); Kiesel 1-3 (2RBI, R, SacBunt); B. Nelson 1-3 (2RBI, R, HBP); Hathaway 1-3; Castillo 1-2 (2R, HBP).