Mountaineers comeback halted in loss to Tenino

Rainier rallied from down seven runs


Rainier High School softball head coach Katie Qualls described the non-league contest against Tenino on Tuesday, March 26 as a test to see how her young players are coming along.

In the process, the Mountaineers nearly pulled off a stunning comeback against the Beavers, rallying from down 9-2 in the fifth inning to tie the game in the sixth before Tenino pulled away in the final frame.

Qualls decided to start eighth-grade pitcher Gracie Lantz in the contest at Tenino High School in which Rainier was technically the home team as the game was moved from RHS due to poor field conditions. In her first high school outing, Lantz faced eight batters, hitting four and allowing three hits.

“We decided to try something a little bit different and started Gracie. She didn’t have the best experience. She was having a hard time on their mound, and it was her first high school game pitching,” Qualls said of Lantz.

After Rainier put two runs on the scoreboard in the first inning, freshman ace Ryleigh Cruse replaced Lantz in the second in a bases-loaded, no-outs situation. Tenino scored eight runs in the inning, using a pair of RBI singles and Sophia Hussey’s grand slam to bolt in front, 8-2.

Rainier’s bats were quiet in the next three frames, with just one double by Cruse, who remained steady on the mound.

Tenino brought home its ninth run in the fifth inning, but Cruse escaped the frame without further damage.

“She adjusted well coming out of the bullpen. Sometimes kids are going to get hits off Ryleigh, and my point to the girls was that we just have to come with that same offense to support her,” Qualls said.

It took a while, but the Mountaineers did just that in the fifth inning. Carolyn Ferguson kicked off the rally with a single that advanced her to second base thanks to a Beavers error. With two outs, Raychel Hansen drew a walk, and Brooklynn Swenson drove them both home with an RBI single. Keira Anderson added another run across the plate with a double to bring the Mountaineers within four, 9-5.

Cruse stepped up to the plate and cranked a two-run home run over the left field fence. According to Qualls, Cruse’s second blast of the season was hit in the same spot at the same field as her mother, Angie Cruse, once did when she played at Tenino High School.

“It was awesome. She was very excited. It’s great to see them getting relaxed and having the confidence to do that,” Qualls said. “By no means am I telling them to swing for the fences, but when they do hit it over the fence, good for them.”

Cruse pitched out of another jam in the sixth to give the Mountaineers a chance to inch closer in the bottom of the frame. Ferguson once again sparked the rally with a single, and after a trio of walks and a hit batter, Rainier tied the game at nine apiece. With the bases loaded, Cruse, who finished 3 of 4 at the plate and a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Despite battling through pain and the arduous mound, Cruse remained in at pitcher in the seventh. But her command soured, as she walked the first two batters of the frame. An infield error and a sacrifice groundout pushed the Beavers back in front, 11-9, but Cruse struck out the final batter to close the inning.

For the third time, Ferguson fueled a potential Mountaineers rally, knocking a double through the infield on a 3-2 count. Rainier couldn’t complete the comeback in the bottom of the seventh, falling 11-9 for its second loss of the year.

“I was really proud of them, to see the resilience, the heads being held high and them bringing each other up. The bottom of the lineup was really smart,” Qualls said. “We had a huge conversation about not letting the third strike go by without taking a cut, and I think everybody did that. Everybody worked really hard today. In my book, this is a win for this team.”

The Mountaineers fall to 3-2 and will face one final non-league opponent in Eatonville on the road on Friday, March 29 at 4 p.m. before Central 2B League action begins after spring break.