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Gavin Knoblich had two of Coupeville’s three hits Saturday in the Babe Ruth state championship game. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The dynasty rolls on.

After two close games Friday, Columbia Basin crushed Coupeville 14-2 Saturday in Ephrata to win the Babe Ruth baseball state title.

Having taken the championship series 2-1, Columbia Basin captures its fourth-straight crown in the 13-15 age group, and fifth in sixth years. It now advances to regionals in Portland, Oregon.

Coupeville, which finishes the season at 17-2, heads home after its best season in program history.

Under the guidance of coach Steve Hilborn, the Wolves were perfect in regular-season play before splitting their first two games with Columbia Basin.

They lost 3-2 in eight innings to open the tourney, then won 6-2 in the Friday nightcap.

Saturday’s game, though, was over fairly quickly.

Columbia Basin jumped on the Wolves for four runs in the first, another four in the second and six more in the third.

The champs were super effective in all aspects of the game Saturday, raining down 13 hits in the first three innings, while also taking advantage of three Coupeville errors and six walks.

The Wolves chipped away for a single run in both the second and fourth, but that was it as their bats short-circuited for the first time in three state playoff games.

The first run came home when Gavin Knoblich singled, moved to second when Andrew Score eked out a walk, then stole third and home.

Knoblich, who will be a junior at CHS this fall, also played a big part in his team’s second run, rapping an RBI double to plate Sage Sharp, who led off the fourth with a walk.

Coupeville’s only other hit on the day came courtesy Johnny Carlson, who lashed a third-inning single.

Xavier Murdy, Cody Roberts and Chelsea Prescott shared mound duty for the Wolves.

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Tennis players Sage Renninger (left) and Payton Aparicio (right) went to Yakima for state, while track star Lauren Bayne headed to Cheney. (Photo by CoupevillePaparazzi.com)

It’s been a long time coming.

Payton Aparicio and Sage Renninger were in kindergarten the last time a Coupeville High School girls tennis player brought a medal home from the state tourney.

The year was 2005 and Mindy Horr and Taniel Lamb finished 2nd, losing a three-set, genteel brawl with a pair of private school pros in the championship match.

Jump forward 13 years and it was time for a new generation of Wolf netters to sparkle.

Capping a splendid four-year run in which they have played together from day one of their freshman year, Aparicio and Renninger put on a show Friday in Yakima.

Winning two of three matches at the 1A/2B/1B state championships, with their only loss a narrow defeat to the defending state champs, the Wolf duo clinched a chance to play Saturday in a medal match.

After enduring three matches, and eight sets, Friday, Aparicio and Renninger will play just one match Saturday.

They’ll take the court at 8:30 AM to play Elizabeth Grubb and Katie Keifer of Jenkins (Chewelah) in the 4th/7th place match.

To get to Saturday’s showcase, Coupeville’s #1 tandem showcased their quiet grit, opening with a 6-4, 6-3 straight-sets win over Sierra Rothlisberger and Madeline Peebles of Chelan.

That propelled Aparicio and Renninger into the quarterfinals, where they faced off with Overlake’s Amanda Lin and Maria Russinovich, who captured the state title a year ago.

Not flinching in the face of a team with a gaudy resume, the Wolves forced the champs to play a full three sets, before falling 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

With two matches under their belts, Aparicio and Renninger squared off with Kendra Gay and Gillian Hartman of Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) and dropped the first set 6-3.

Needing to win to avoid elimination, the Wolf duo rallied to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-4, bouncing their Eastern Washington foes.

Coupeville tennis coach Ken Stange has put 13 years and 26 seasons into the Wolf program. While he’s had boys medal before, he had narrowly missed in previous trips with female netters.

Until Friday, when the Wolves showed the locals they didn’t travel across the state just for the scenery.

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   Wolf senior Allison Wenzel picked up a ton of new swag during her trip to the state volleyball tourney. (Susan Wenzel photo)

Another step on the ladder to success.

As Cory Whitmore goes about the business of building a volleyball dynasty in Coupeville, the second-year coach has guided the Wolves to new heights.

Back-to-back Olympic League titles, with CHS winning all 27 sets in conference play this season, and year #2 capped by a trip to the 1A state tourney.

The visit to Yakima, in which the Wolves found themselves trapped in the “Group of Death,” was Coupeville’s first trip to the big dance since 2004.

And, while CHS fell Friday to sixth-ranked and undefeated Castle Rock, and defending state champ Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), Whitmore, once he recovered from the emotionally-draining adventure, came away pleased.

“We are very happy to have had this great experience to cap off a fun season with a fantastic group of student/athletes,” he said. “They worked extremely hard to get to this point and we are very fortunate to have took the season to the last possible week.”

Coupeville closed the season at 13-5, tying the ’04 squad for the most wins in a single season.

Castle Rock:

The Rockets, who split four matches on their way to taking home a 6th place trophy, made off with a 25-8, 23-25, 25-8, 25-9 win.

One of Coupeville’s biggest strengths this season ended up backfiring a bit on them, as its service game wilted a bit under pressure.

“In all but the second set, our serving was a struggle,” Whitmore said. “We were attempting to be too aggressive and so lost our consistency.”

That second set, though, was the high-water mark for the Wolves in the tourney.

“We were able to find their weak points, which kept their offense out of sync and we we able to turn their offense into ours,” Whitmore said.

Coupeville’s back row defense, led by Hope Lodell and Payton Aparicio, who both scraped the floor for 13 digs apiece, was a particular standout.

Emma Smith paced the Wolves at the net with four kills, while Kyla Briscoe, Mikayla Elfrank and Aparicio notched two apiece.

The Wolves, who are normally an ace-firing beast at the service stripe, never truly got untracked, with Aparicio and Ashley Menges each hitting on two.

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls):

The Eagles came into the tourney flying high – defending champs, undefeated (having not dropped a single set) and top-ranked, only to crash to the court hard Friday afternoon.

Picked apart by fourth-ranked King’s, which would go on to win its third state title and first since 2009, Lakeside was not happy entering the day’s second match.

Coupeville felt the full brunt of that anger.

The final score was 25-12, 25-10, 25-16, though the Wolves put up a decent fight.

“In all three sets we came out flat but competed hard,” Whitmore said. “We served much more consistently than versus Castle Rock, allowing our defense to slow down their very strong and balanced offense.”

Elfrank smoked three kills, with Smith, Katrina McGranahan and Aparicio each recording two.

Menges connected on three service aces, with Coupeville’s back row players spreading out the digs.

Lodell (7), Aparicio (7), Menges (6), Lauren Rose (5) and Briscoe (4) all chipped in to a solid group effort.

In the four years of the 1A Olympic League, the Wolf spikers have jumped from one win to six to 11 to 13.

As Whitmore looks ahead to his third season at the helm (never too early to plan), he knows losing seven seniors hurts.

But having a solid base of younger varsity stars — current juniors Emma Smith and Menges, as well as sophomores Scout Smith and Maya-Toomey-Stout and freshman Chelsea Prescott — plus a JV squad which went 12-1, bodes well for the future.

“We set a goal to make it to state and with the milestone achieved, this group can hold their heads up high, knowing that they left all they had out there on the court through four-plus years of hard work and dedication,” Whitmore said.

“I’m so proud of what this group of seniors have accomplished in their time with Coupeville volleyball,” he added. “And very much look forward to next season with a group looking to follow their legacy.”

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   Hope Lodell (1), here backed by junior Ashley Menges, is one of seven seniors who led CHS volleyball to its first state berth in 13 years. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

   Young fans sent the Wolves off to Yakima in style Thursday. (Susan Wenzel photo)

   Junior Emma Smith made it to state in her third season as a varsity player. (Wenzel photo)

   Sophomores (l to r) Emma Mathusek, Maya Toomey-Stout and Scout Smith are planning repeat trips to Eastern Washington. (Charlotte Young photo)

   Chelsea Prescott was the lone freshman to see varsity action this year. (Wenzel photo)

   Allison Wenzel, one of Coupeville’s seniors, the Magnificent Seven. (Susan Wenzel photo)

   Wenzel’s compatriots are (l to r), manager Kayla Rose, Lodell, Katrina McGranahan, Kyla Briscoe, Payton Aparicio, Lauren Rose and, in front, Mikayla Elfrank. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

From also-ran to powerhouse.

The seven Coupeville High School seniors who capped their volleyball careers Friday at the 1A state tourney in Yakima are responsible for an amazing turnaround.

While the Wolves couldn’t escape from an astonishingly-tough draw which pitted them against three of the state’s top six teams in the “Group of Death,” the spikers finished off their school’s best run in 13 years.

Coupeville took a set from undefeated, sixth-ranked Castle Rock in its opener, before falling 25-8, 22-25, 25-8, 25-9.

The Wolves then found themselves face-to-face with #1 Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), the defending state champs, who hadn’t lost a set all year until being upended by #4 King’s.

The Eastern Washington juggernaut stayed alive with a 25-12, 25-10, 25-16 win, ending Coupeville’s season at 13-5.

Also headed home from Yakima is fellow Island squad South Whidbey, which lost to Charles Wright Academy and Naches Valley.

King’s plays Lynden Christian in one semifinal Saturday, while Cascade (Leavenworth) meets Chelan, which rallied from down two sets to one to CWA.

While the Wolves will not be hanging a state banner this year, their season stands with the best in program history.

The 13 wins ties the 2004 squad, the last to make it to state, for the most in a single season by a CHS spiker unit.

Along the way, Coupeville won a second-straight Olympic League crown, rolling to a 9-0 conference mark without dropping a set.

Contrast that against 2014, when three of the seven current seniors — Kyla Briscoe, Lauren Rose (and, in a late season cameo) Katrina McGranahan — played for a team which finished 1-11 under Breanne Smedley.

McGranahan, Allison Wenzel, Hope Lodell and Payton Aparicio were the core of a JV team that went 4-5 under Amy King that season during the first year of the then new four-team Olympic League.

As sophomores, Lodell, Aparicio and McGranahan made the full-time jump to varsity, and the Wolves improved to 6-10, including a district playoff win on their home floor against Seattle Christian.

The JV was the first to break through to a winning record, as Heidi Wyman guided the 2015 team to a 7-4 mark.

The big jump came in 2016, with Wenzel moving up to varsity and Mikayla Elfrank arriving from South Whidbey to make it a seven-pack.

Actually six, since a leg injury sidelined big-hitting Briscoe all season.

With Cory Whitmore sliding into the head coaching job after Smedley returned to her alma mater in Columbia River, the Wolves went 11-6, including an 8-1 run to capture a league title.

Kristin Bridges, making it three JV coaches in as many seasons, went 12-2 and the ascent continued.

For those who didn’t think there was much room left to improve, well, you were wrong.

This season Whitmore’s varsity, for the first time featuring all seven Class of 2018 spikers together on the same roster, zipped through a 12-2 regular season, then split two matches at districts.

A win over Cascade Christian, the school which knocked it out of the playoffs two years earlier, sent the Wolves back to Yakima.

And the JV?

Playing for new coach Chris Smith, with the help of now veteran assistant Ashley Herndon (the only coach to be on scene all four years), went 12-1.

That bodes well for the Wolves, who will have seven open roster spots when they return to chase a third-straight league crown and another trip to Yakima.

For the moment, though, the spotlight firmly remains on the splendid senior class, which includes five girls who came within a single strike of making it to state in softball last season.

This time, they broke through, and did it in style.

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The Pineapple Ninjas.

The Pineapple Ninjas at rest. (Megan Somes photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Isabelle Wells enjoys a post-tourney milk shake. (Katy Wells photo)

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

Coaches (l to r) Mimi Johnson, Katy Wells and Lark Gustafson have led teams to back-to-back district titles.

(Jacque LaRue photos)

   Tracking down food, but never too busy to stop for a photo op. (Jacque LaRue photos)

Impromptu dance party.

Impromptu dance party.

"We'll be back to see you next year!!"

“We’ll be back to see you next year!!”

They’re building a tradition.

Back-to-back District 11 titles. Back-to-back trips to the state tournament.

With softball fever raging at every level in Coupeville, the younger generation is making a statement. They plan to keep the fire burning on the prairie.

And while the season may have ended Sunday for the Central Whidbey Little League 9/10 All-Star softball sluggers — the Pineapple Ninjas dropped a close 14-11 game to East Seattle in Vancouver — the afterglow of the season will last for a long time.

As she prepared to pull her players back out of the swimming pool and head home, Central Whidbey coach Mimi Johnson was justifiably proud.

The Pineapple Ninjas don’t have the huge base of players that the big-city teams draw from, but they have pluck like no one’s business.

“Girls did great!,” Johnson said. “We battled!!”

And guess what, big-city teams?

They’ll be back and they’ll keep getting better and going deeper in these tournaments.

Central Whidbey softball is on the rise, across every age division, across every team.

Little League to high school, they are getting stronger, more confident, and their belief in themselves, as individual players and as a unit, grows with every day, every play.

They go by many names.

The Pineapple Ninjas, the Sizzlin’ Sisters, the Venom, and then, one day, they all become Wolves.

And the howl of success that is sweeping the prairie never stops echoing.

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