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Adyson Morales digs in at the state tourney. (Jackie Saia photos)

They fought to the last swing, and the last click of the camera.

The Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball squad claimed a district title, then finished fourth at state despite missing key players with injury and illness.

Along the way, team mom Jackie Saia (whose daughter, Teagan Calkins, was on fire at the plate) snapped away, and the pics above and below are courtesy her.

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Adyson Morales and her team had a very-successful postseason run. (Jackie Saia photos)

The run is done.

A four-games-in-four-days odyssey at the state tournament in Vancouver reached its end Tuesday night for the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball squad.

Playing without sluggers Savina Wells (illness) and Loto Tupu (injury), the Inferno fell 12-1 to North Kitsap, finishing fourth in an eight-team field.

With the victory, Kitsap advances to face Camas Wednesday night, with the victor squaring off with undefeated Kirkland in the championship round.

Thanks to a 16-0 victory over Camas in the early game Tuesday, Kirkland only needs one more win to claim the state title.

The Kitsap/Camas winner will have to beat Kirkland twice Thursday to come out on top.

Whidbey, which boasts a 14-player roster, with seven girls each from Coupeville and Oak Harbor, went 4-2 after being assembled.

The Inferno swept two games to win the District 11 title, then went 2-2 at state.

After losing a one-run thriller to Camas in its opener Saturday, Whidbey bounced back to eliminate teams from Puyallup and Mukilteo.

And, for a brief moment, it looked like the winning streak might continue.

Inferno hurler Adyson Morales went through Kitsap like a buzz saw in the top of the first inning, setting down their first three hitters in order.

The pride of Oak Harbor did so with a little help from her Coupeville infielders.

The leadoff hitter popped out to Katie Marti at second base, before Madison McMillan made back-to-back strong throws on grounders to third, each rocket landing softly in the waiting glove of Mia Farris.

Mia Farris, an accomplished player with her bat and glove.

Whidbey promptly plopped the game’s first run on the board in the bottom half of the frame, with Haylee Burleigh walking and coming around to score when Kitsap bobbled a hot shot off the bat of Teagan Calkins.

Unfortunately for the Inferno, that was pretty much the moment its offense came to a screeching halt.

The next nine Whidbey hitters went down in order, a cruel streak not broken until McMillan rocketed a one-out single off a Kitsap glove in the bottom of the fourth.

But, before the Inferno could celebrate the moment, Kitsap turned an inning-ending double play, turning a well-hit ball by Morales into a wham-bam twin killing.

Jada Heaton earned much hootin’ and hollerin’ from her teammates when she got drilled by a wayward pitch in the bottom of the fifth, but that was it for Whidbey’s offense.

With just two hits and two walks, life was going to be difficult for the Inferno, and Kitsap kept chip, chip, chippin’ away.

Two runs in the top of the second gave Whidbey’s rivals a lead they wouldn’t lose, then four more tallies in both the third and fourth stretched the lead out.

While Kitsap spent a fair amount of time putting the ball where the Whidbey defenders weren’t, the Inferno did make several strong defensive plays.

McMillan played the hot corner with panache, while catcher Lilly Norman gunned down a would-be base thief, connecting with Burleigh, who slapped on the tag.

While the final result wasn’t another win, Whidbey coach Fred Farris still left the field extremely proud of what his team accomplished.

Drawing players from a much-smaller area than most of their opponents, the Inferno clicked quickly and put together a stirring highlight reel over their run.

“Never been prouder of a group,” Farris said. “Been my honor.”

Most of the Inferno players move on to high school ball after this, with bright futures at the next level.

The team featured Coupeville stars McMillan, Heaton, Mia Farris, Taylor Brotemarkle, Wells, Marti, and Calkins.

Joining them were Oak Harbor diamond queens Tupu, Ramona Ryder, Burleigh, Norman, Morales, Payton Ludemann, and Layla Suto.

One team, one dream.

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Softball sluggers Savina Wells (left) and Madison McMillan combined for seven hits Monday at the state tournament. (Katy Wells photo)

On to day four!

Winning an elimination game for the second day in a row, the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball team thumped Mukilteo 16-5 Monday at the state tournament in Vancouver.

A royal rumble which began with eight teams now has just four left, and another will fall Tuesday.

That will come when Whidbey faces North Kitsap at 8 PM in a battle of squads which are 2-1 at the big dance.

Earlier in the evening Tuesday, Camas (2-0) and Kirkland (2-0) will play, with the victor advancing to the championship round, which goes down Thursday.

The Whidbey/North Kitsap winner goes toe-to-toe Wednesday with the Camas/Kirkland loser, with the winner of that one needing to win twice Thursday to claim a state title.

Monday’s showdown was expected to be a barn burner, with Mukilteo among the favorites entering the tourney.

Instead, Whidbey, even playing without injured slugger Loto Tupu, came out firing and never gave their foes a chance.

The Inferno exploded for five quick runs in the top of the first, added another score in the second, then broke things open.

A six-run fourth inning included a massive three-run home run from Coupeville’s Katie Marti, while four more runs in the fifth sealed the deal.

Well, almost, as Mukilteo made Whidbey work for it, pushing five runs across in the bottom of the fifth before falling a run shy of preventing the 10-run mercy rule from being enacted.

The game ended on a foul ball which soared behind the plate, then nestled soft and safe into the waiting mitt of Whidbey catcher Teagan Calkins.

The Inferno offense came alive under the lights, with Haylee Burleigh lighting the fuse all night.

Haylee Burleigh was dynamic, collecting four hits and playing inspired defense at shortstop. (Jackie Saia photo)

The Oak Harbor slugger got the first hit in all four innings in which Whidbey scored, spraying three singles to go with a resounding triple to right field in the top of the second.

In the first, Whidbey made sure Mukilteo knew what was up, with its first five hitters delivering base-knocks to rattle the rival hurler.

Burleigh slapped a single to right, followed by singles from Lilly Norman and Calkins, then the big guns started firing.

A day after crushing an out-of-the-park home run, mighty masher Madison McMillan cranked a triple to left field, with Savina Wells following her blast with a double to deep center.

A few batters down the lineup, Taylor Brotemarkle smoked an RBI single of her own, and the rout was on.

Up 6-0 heading into the fourth, the Inferno bunched together another batch of hits, with everyone in the lineup getting in on the fun.

Burleigh (yep, her again) singled, Jada Heaton walloped a double, Calkins and McMillan poked singles, and then it was time for Marti to get medieval on the softball.

Katie Marti can kill you with her bat or her glove. (Jackie Saia photo)

Flexing like grandpa Paul Messner used to do right before he ran wild on the football field in the ’60s (or so I’ve been told), the prairie powerhouse jumped on a ball, sending a screaming liner to far-away right field.

Churning her legs as fast as they would go, Marti never broke stride, barreling around the bags as two teammates tapped home ahead of her, applying the punctuation mark to the Inferno assault.

Still flushed with pride, Breeanna Messner’s cousin was honored after the game for hitting the first “legit inside the park home run” of the tourney.

And that could have been it, but these bats don’t take many breaks.

Whidbey added another four runs from there, with Burleigh (she’s back, baby!), Calkins, Adyson Morales, and Payton Ludemann all crunching key base-knocks.

With a generous scorebook keeper, the Inferno racked up an eye-popping 24 hits, with Wells and Burleigh leading the way with four apiece.

Calkins (3), McMillan (3), Marti (2), Layla Suto (2), Morales (2), Norman (1), Ludemann (1), Heaton (1), and Brotemarkle (1) all joined the hit parade, while Mia Farris provided the intangibles for a Whidbey squad which continues to fly high.

Wells was “lights out” in the pitcher’s circle, while her backing crew was primed for success.

“Defense was awesome,” said Inferno coach Fred Farris. “Haylee (Burleigh) is the real deal at shortstop!!”

Ludemann made “a great catch in right field,” while Calkins “played perfect in center then (at) catcher.”

Every girl on the roster had an impact, even those who are battling injuries.

Lilly was a warrior again with the sore ankle,” Fred Farris said. “And Loto was in the dugout in her walking boot keeping them fired up!”

Coach Kimberly Brotemarkle and Teagan Calkins celebrate good times. (Jackie Saia photo)

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Coupeville’s Chelsi Stevens steps into the batter’s box at the state tourney. (Kristi Stevens photos)

The pride of Whidbey.

They fought until the final batter.

When the season started, the Central Whidbey Little League minors softball squad had just four girls with prior experience.

Jump ahead to this past weekend, and the core of that squad, joined by three players from Oak Harbor and one from Anacortes, stood tall at the state tourney in Auburn.

Now known as the Whidbey Island All-Stars, they faced off with two teams which drew players from big cities, and fell 19-4 Saturday and 34-24 Sunday (not a misprint – a real score).

The opening game pitted Whidbey against Lake City, which pulls players from 13 leagues including Everett and Marysville.

The Islanders hung tough through the first two innings, trailing just 5-2, but the big city brawlers broke the game open after that, taking advantage of walks.

While Whidbey lost, acting coach Mike Peters came away happy with how his players hustled while in the field.

“The highlights for our squad were defensive plays in this game,” he said. “The team did the little things we talk about.

“Throw to correct bases, hit the cut-offs with solid throws, and not make ‘little league errors’.”

Game two, against Glenwood Little League from Vancouver, was an offensive extravaganza which lasted four-plus hours.

Down 15-2, Whidbey roared back by dropping 12 runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second.

Running wild on the base-paths, the Islanders flustered their opponents, cutting the deficit all the way back to 15-14.

Glenwood recovered its composure, however, pushing the lead out to 34-14 — but that just lit a spark in Whidbey’s players.

“(Coach) Lark (Gustafson) and I challenged the team — they would need to get 11 runs at least to keep playing,” Peters said. “Well, the team rallied to make a run at the needed runs.”

Five straight walks got things going, before Ava Carpenter ripped a two-run single.

Following hot on her heels, Ava Lucero laid down “a perfect suicide down the first-base line to drive in another run,” before Haylee Armstrong flexed her biceps, and her wheels.

Hitting with the bases juiced, Armstrong crashed a line drive to center for a bases-clearing grand slam home run, easily the biggest blow of the day.

“Didn’t clear the fences, but with her speed she was rounding second before the other team even got to the ball,” Peters said.

Staying hot, Whidbey used a mix of walks and base-knocks from Sydney Van Dyke, Gracie Wallin, Adeline Maynes, and Carpenter to trim the final margin in half.

“You could actually see the belief in all the girls we could do this,” Peters said. “Heard a positive remark from the Glenwood manager — “Man, this team just won’t quit”.”

That’s a trait the Whidbey coaching staff, led by Aaron Lucero, preached all season.

While papa Lucero had a prior commitment which kept him from traveling with the team to Auburn, the squad was in good hands with Mike Peters, Gustafson, and Sofia Peters calling the shots.

“This is a great group of ladies who really dedicated their time to be better athletes,” Aaron Lucero said. “The parents have been fantastic and supportive of the team and program we would like to see develop.

“Our overarching theme this year has been “do the little things.” We built on that and added “win the pitch” to postseason preparation,” he added. “The team really took that to heart and pushed themselves.”

Making the jump from inexperience — not a single player had pitched prior to this season — to the big dance is a huge step on the path to continued success.

“There is no substitute for experience, and I’m proud the team developed to the point that they could represent Whidbey with pride,” Aaron Lucero said. “This is a young team and we will be back to state.

“The most important part to me as a coach and father is that all of these players have voiced their love for the sport, a desire to succeed, and are willing to put the work in to excel.

“I want this attitude to be contagious among their peers and younger players, and grow the program through action, attitudes, and of course, success.”

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Madison McMillan cranked a game-changing three-run home run Sunday, keeping Whidbey’s state title hopes alive. (Jackie Saia photos)

Adyson Morales whiffed seven batters for the Inferno.

I assumed something went wrong with my phone.

Working on my sister’s farm Sunday, I peeked once to see how the Whidbey Island All-Star juniors softball team was doing in its loser-out game at the state tourney in Vancouver.

The answer: the Inferno were scuffling, held to three singles and no runs through five innings, and trailing South Hill of Puyallup 5-0.

Three hours later, I grabbed my phone, saw that the GameChanger app was claiming Whidbey had won 19-10, preserving its hopes of a state title, and thought I had tapped on the wrong game.

But it was true. All true.

Really. Seriously. Really.

Staging one of the great comebacks in Whidbey youth athletic history, the Inferno unleashed a tsunami in the final two innings, raining down 19 runs on 21 hits, including nine of the extra-base variety.

Better still, 13 of those runs, including a game-changing out-of-the-park three-run home run from Coupeville’s Madison McMillan, came with the Inferno just a single out away from being eliminated.

South Hill needed 21 outs to stay alive and move on to face Mukilteo Monday night in another loser-out game, but got to 20 outs and then promptly imploded.

Or, more accurately, Whidbey dropped a nuclear bomb on their foes hopes and dreams, creating a beautiful ballet of death and destruction on the diamond.

“That was nuts,” said mentally-exhausted Inferno coach Fred Farris. “Greatest sports moment I’ve been a part of, or frankly ever watched.

“I’m speechless!”

You can sum the first five innings of the game up by simply saying, “Not much was working for Whidbey.”

Maybe still reeling a bit from a one-run loss to Camas Saturday in their tourney opener, the Inferno couldn’t get anything started.

Savina Wells and Loto Tupu whacked singles in the second inning, only to be stranded, and that was almost the full extent of Whidbey’s offensive output until late.

But big bats can stay quiet only so long, and the Inferno finally broke through.

Trailing 5-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning, Whidbey got a one-out single from Taylor Brotemarkle, then started to find its usual free-flowing groove.

After not getting a single extra-base hit up until then, the Inferno unloaded for five doubles in the inning, with Payton Ludemann, Adyson Morales, Wells, McMillan, and Tupu all bashing the ball.

That allowed Whidbey to scrape together six runs and take their first lead of the game at 6-5, but it was a lead which vanished almost as quickly as it came.

South Hill bounced right back to slap four runs on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the frame, regaining the upper hand at 9-6, and things looked dire.

A strong defensive play, with Brotemarkle rifling a throw off a one-hopper to right, and Mia Farris making “an incredible stretch” to haul in the throw at first, kept the damage from being worse.

But things weren’t looking good in the top of the seventh and final inning, as two of Whidbey’s first three hitters went down.

Haylee Burleigh poked a single to left to put one runner aboard, but the end of the season, and the little league careers of many of the Inferno players, seemed a mere moment away.

Who knew that final moment would stretch out into eternity?

With everything hinging on her, Coupeville catcher Teagan Calkins — an artful photographer, a quick cross country runner, and a high-achieving student — ambled to the plate.

And thus began the Ragnarok which would reduce South Hill to a pile of rubble.

Calkins whacked a single to center to keep the game going, Wells followed with an RBI single to short to cut the lead to 9-7, then McMillan got epic.

Swinging the hammer of the gods, one of Coupeville’s best and brightest mashed the kind of dinger which can define a career, and launch years of future softball excellence in her home town.

Boom, 10-9 Inferno — game over on the spot, essentially, even if the two teams played on for a while longer.

Her coach, who has seen a lot of games in a lot of sports in his time, was suitably impressed.

Madison hit it WAY over the fence,” Fred Farris said. “The girls really fed off that.

“It was probably five foot fair and 20 feet over the foul pole, and still climbing!”

There were still 10 more hits, and another nine runs to score before the inning came to an end, and it was artistry, pure artistry.

One out from elimination, the Inferno responded with 13 consecutive hits, with Calkins, Wells, McMillan, and Layla Suto collecting two base-knocks apiece during the streak.

The run only came to an end when Mia Farris was drilled by a pitch, one of two times Whidbey players were plunked on the afternoon, but by then, South Hill was dead and buried.

The Puyallup nine did scrape out one run in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t mount a rally against Wells, who was on in relief of Morales.

Whidbey’s pitchers combined for nine strikeouts on the afternoon, with Morales netting seven of those.

Calkins and Wells finished with four hits apiece to pace the Inferno, with McMillan thumping three and collecting a game-high six RBI.

Burleigh (2), Morales (2), Suto (2), Tupu (2), Brotemarkle (2), Mia Farris (1), Ludemann (1), and Katie Marti (1) also garnered hits, with Jada Heaton and Lilly Norman rounding out Whidbey’s roster.

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