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Surging Puyallup back on familiar softball ground - Class 4A District 3/4 champion

As No. 3 team from the 4A SPSL, Vikings take down league foes Rogers of Puyallup and Emerald Ridge to capture first bi-district title since 2018

KENT, Wash. - It's not as if perennial 4A SPSL softball powerhouse Puyallup was coming into the Class 4A District 3/4 championships by the skin of its teeth - it just hadn't hit an extra gear yet this spring.

The Vikings found it at the right time.

Not the favorites coming in - they left as bi-district champions after an 8-5 extra-innings victory Saturday afternoon over Emerald Ridge at Service Club Ballfields.

After the Jaguars rallied to tie it with a pair of two-out, down-to-the-last-strike seventh-inning runs, Puyallup tallied the decisive three runs utilizing small ball.

Amori Hargrove and Raquel Thomas laid down run-scoring bunts to spark the scoring output. Izzy Welch got the win in relief.

The Vikings also found late magic in the semifinals, scoring twice in the seventh inning to edge Rogers of Puyallup, 5-4.

"I told them after the Olympia (district quarterfinal) game, 'It’s about developing your resume,'" Puyallup softball coach Alec Elliott said. "We hadn’t’ really had a good come-from-behind win yet, and I didn’t know if they could do it or not.

"They keep proving me wrong."

2023 Washington high school softball: 4A WCD/SW District tournament in Kent, Puyallup vs. Emerald Ridge in title game

It was a big Saturday for junior third baseman Kyra Smith, who smashed two home runs in the semifinal victory - and another one in the fifth inning of the championship game to give Puyallup a 5-0 lead.

Slowly, the Jaguars - the tournament's top seeds - began putting heat on Puyallup starting pitcher Lauryn Krick, getting a run back in the fifth inning on Jayda Guadron's RBI double.

They scored two more runs in the sixth inning - and had the bases loaded against Krick with two outs in the seventh inning when junior Lillian Stariha stepped up to the plate.

With two strikes, Stanha bounced a grounder through the middle of the infield for a two-run single to tie the game at 5-5.

Welch came on in relief to close the door - after pitching a complete game in the earlier semifinal.

"I haven’t done a ton of relief this year," Welch said. "But the (pitching) mindset never leaves. You are always zoned in."

Puyallup came in as the No. 3 seed from the league behind the Jaguars and Olympia - and departed with not only its first WCD title since 2018, but also its 500th victory in program history.

"It is kind of an expectation to do your best - and that we win," Welch said. "At the beginning of the season, winning wasn’t what mattered. We had to find our flow as a family."