RICHLAND — One of the walls inside the Forks High School gymnasium will soon be a little more cluttered — the goal all along for Spartans senior softball standouts Britney Dean and Julia Lausche.
“The wall up there has basketball, football, wrestling with all the years those teams have made it to state,” Forks softball coach and Britney’s dad, Dennis Dean said.
“Fastpitch and baseball have no state participation years and one of the goals we started when they were young is we will change that, we will make it and we will put something up on that wall. Win or lose this weekend, we will put it on the wall that we made state.”
The Spartans (11-10) open their first-ever Class 1A State Softball Tournament against Lynden Christian (12-11) today at noon at Columbia Playfields in Richland.
“I remember in middle school we kept looking at the wall, it was empty and we told each other we were going to put something on that wall,” Britney Dean said.
“When it gets put up, it will feel great that we did that. That we made it.”
Dennis Dean, a longtime travel softball coach, took over the Spartans high school program in 2017 when Britney and Lausche were sophomores.
The Spartans have had to compete alongside league foes and state powerhouses Montesano (state champs in 2017) and Elma (runner-up in 2018) and advance through a district tournament bracket that also has featured stiff competition from Trico League teams such as Castle Rock.
“Our freshman year we came in and we struggled,” Britney Dean said. “There was a lot of coaching turnover and we had to get people pumped up and ready to play.
“We made improvements every year. We made districts for the first time since 2008 as sophomores and we went one game farther last year and got fourth place when only three teams made state.”
Now that the Spartans have qualified, Britney Dean said teams shouldn’t take the talent on Forks’ roster lightly.
“I bet some of the teams will do their research on us like my dad does on them,” she said.
“They’ll see [Forks has] never been to state before, so they might underestimate us. I know we are more than capable of competing and beating the team’s there.
“We have it all. We have pitching, catching, defense and we can hit. We have all the puzzle pieces that we could ever need.”
And Dean isn’t content with just getting there.
“I want to bring home a trophy, that’s what I want to do,” she said. “It’s going to be mostly about making memories. Our first state trip, so a lot of memories will be made.”
Dean, a pitcher and outfielder who is committed to play college softball for George Fox University, said the game didn’t come as easily at first as one may think.
“I was terrible,” she said. There are pictures of me…I couldn’t throw. [My dad] never gave up on me, he always believed in me. For pitching we would go to PA for pitching practice with [softball guru] Bill Lammie once or twice a week. We’ve just been doing softball for so long together.”
Dennis Dean said he holds Britney to a higher standard.
“The thing with coaching your own kid, at least for me, is she gets away with less than most of the other girls do,” he said. “Her sophomore and junior years, when I needed to play somebody, the easy thing to do is sit your own daughter. You don’t have to worry about other parents complaining. She did pop up, ‘I never get to play any outfield,’ but I’ve let her play a bunch as a senior.”
Dean threw a no-hitter and a two-hitter while striking out 23 in district wins last weekend and was named a WIAA Athlete of the Week for her efforts in the circle. She also made the All-Evergreen League first team.
Dennis Dean thinks the team’s pitching will surprise at state.
“Britney and Chloe [Leverington] give us that 1-2 punch,” he said.
“I truly think we should have some of the best pitching in the state and one of the best, if not the best, catchers in Rian [Peters]. If you get good pitching and defense you don’t have to score a lot of runs to win a game.”
Lausche was an honorable mention all-league choice. She’s played shortstop since her freshman season.
“She’s not only good defensively at shortstop, but also has to time out the throws from Rian to second base [to catch potential base stealers] and she has a real solid understanding of positioning and where to be on stolen base-plays and bunts.”
Peters and Olson are juniors and also are committed to play college softball, both planning on playing for St. Martin’s in Lacey. Along with Leverington, those two will be counted on to lead the Spartans in 2020.
“Next year we will come back and still be plenty deep, but it will be hard to replace the both of them [Dean and Lausche].
“It’s been quite the ride, coaching them since they were 11 years old all the way through travel ball and taking over the high school program,” Dennis Dean said.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]