MOREAU — Kayla Bailey will never have to go to a family gathering as the only Bailey sibling to not win a state championship.
Settling under a high pop-up in the fading sunlight of a warm Saturday evening, Bailey made the catch and was immediately mobbed by her joyous Fort Ann softball teammates.
Her final out sealed a stunning 4-3 Class D state championship victory over three-time defending champion Deposit — capping a day that saw the Cardinals play 17 innings of softball in a five-hour span at Moreau Rec. Fort Ann had earlier won its semifinal in 10 innings.
A pair of two-run hits by Bailey and freshman Becky Ostrander in the bottom of the sixth pulled Fort Ann (19-4) from the brink against Deposit ace Makenzie Stiles, who had silenced the Cardinals for five innings.
“It feels great, especially since people didn’t think we were going to win sectionals, this definitely opens our eyes so much to what we can do, and it feels amazing,” said Bailey, a junior who joins sister Molly and brother Garrett as a member of a state championship team for Fort Ann.
“Words can’t describe what I feel now,” said head coach Jason Humiston after his Cards claimed the program’s fifth state title, and first since 2014. “It was David versus Goliath today. They’re the three-time state champions, we just wanted to give a good fight, get to the end and see what can happen. … We weren’t even supposed to be out of Section II. It’s surreal.”
Bailey, who threw a whopping 289 pitches over 17 innings of work Saturday, finished the title game with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Though Bailey gave up 10 hits, only a few were damaging. She took one base hit off of her right thigh in the top of the sixth, forcing her to grit her teeth through the next six outs.
“She pitched unbelievable today — that’s a gutty effort,” Humiston said. “She got hit in the thigh, she stayed composed, they were hitting her a little bit in the gaps.”
“Could not have asked for more from her today,” senior catcher Raegan Thorpe said. “She was lights out today — you never would have known she pitched more than two full games.”
Said Deposit coach Dan Briggs: “I thought after pitching 10 innings earlier, we’d start to get on her, but she seemed to get stronger throughout the game.”
Bailey outdueled Stiles, a flame-throwing junior who is verbally committed to the University of Pittsburgh. Stiles struck out 10 and walked three and held Fort Ann to four hits.
Sophomore Sarah Paige — who belted a double off of Stiles on the Cardinals’ first at-bat of the game — sparked Fort Ann’s rally from a 1-0 deficit with a leadoff single in the sixth. Amanda Godfrey reached on an error, and Bailey followed with her two-run double to right-center.
“We focused on hitting first pitch because she was throwing it for us, so we might as well get up in the count, hit the ball, be on her early and move the runners,” Bailey said.
“Kay came up with a huge at-bat there in the gap,” Humiston said. “I told her to sit on a fastball and just try to take one, and she drove it to right-center and the rest is history.”
Following Paige, Godfrey rounded third and slid into home under the tag for the go-ahead run.
“Coach gave me the go-ahead, so I just sprinted for home,” Godfrey said. “I didn’t know how close I was, so I went to the side of the plate and I was safe, then I heard the crowd.”
With no outs, Stiles issued back-to-back intentional walks to load the bases, resulting in a pair of groundouts at the plate on Fort Ann bunts.
Then, with the infield playing in, Ostrander — the Cardinals’ No. 8 batter — ripped a two-run seeing-eye single through the gap to the right of second base, giving the Cardinals a 4-1 lead. Ostrander said it was her first hit in about a month.
“I was kind of hoping I’d get hit (by a pitch) again so we could move the runners home,’” said Ostrander, whose sister Kimberly played on Fort Ann’s 2013 state championship team. “But it just seemed perfectly down the middle and I said, ‘I’ve got to get a hit’ — we needed more than one run, and I just nailed it.”
“You can’t give them a crack in the door, because they’ll bust it down,” Briggs said. “They got a squibber up the middle, just out of the reach of our pitcher and our second baseman. That’s what the difference in the game was — 3 feet either way, that’s a groundout for us.”
The two runs were needed insurance, because the Lumberjacks (22-4) rallied in the seventh with three hits and two runs to pull within 4-3 with one out. However, Bailey got the last two batters to pop up to end the game.
“Enough credit can’t be given to Fort Ann for their pitching, defense, the way they can hit the ball, and their experience is what really got them through,” Briggs said.
“Our bottom of the order saved us today, and that’s really special because those girls have never been here before,” Thorpe said. “They stepped up at the right time.”