Eastlake battles back from adversity, finds its ‘Ubuntu’

If there was ever a time the Eastlake fastpitch team needed to live by its motto “Ubuntu” — a South African word representing unity — it was last Friday.

If there was ever a time the Eastlake fastpitch team needed to live by its motto “Ubuntu” — a South African word representing unity — it was last Friday.

Thirty minutes after losing opportunities to clinch a state berth, beat a rival and claim the KingCo 4A tournament title, the Wolves had to hit the field again. Frustration was evident on every one of the Eastlake players’ faces after losing a one-run lead and falling 4-3 to Woodinville in the final inning of the tournament championship — assisted in large part by a controversial call.

“You can’t even imagine the pain those girls felt in losing the game on what was really a tough call,” said head coach George Crowder.

Gathered in right field, the Wolves made up their minds they were going to get it done in their second winner-to-state game against Redmond. A loss would have meant a trip to Vancouver, Wash., the next day for a loser-out, winner-to-state game.

“We were a little bit upset at first, but we huddled up in the outfield and we channeled our energy,” said senior second baseman Heather Hammack. “We were just like ‘What’s more important right now, is there anything else in our lives that is more important right now than making it to state?’”

The Wolves dug deep, returned to their team motto, and blew past Redmond, 8-1 for their first playoff berth since 2004. Eastlake opens the double-elimination state tournament at 9 a.m., today, against Mountain View (Vancouver) at SERA Fields in Tacoma.

“It’s amazing,” senior Katie Bunger said. “There’s a core group of girls who’ve been waiting to do this since sophomore year and this has been our goal since day one.”

Eastlake earned its ticket by striking early. The Wolves scored two runs in the first inning and never looked back. Senior Stephanie Fox and Hammack, hit RBI singles in the first. Hammack, who was 3-for-4, earned her RBI single in the third on a bloop single and senior Kimi Pohlman helped break the game open by bouncing a two-run ground-rule double over the left center field fence. Pohlman was also 3-for-4. Marissa Guches, Kelsey Leavernz and Bunger all added RBI hits in the top of the seventh.

Fox and Bunger shut down the Mustang bats, allowing only two hits.

“I told the girls, the mark of a true champion is how you can come back from an absolute devastating loss and these girls absolutely played lights out,” Crowder said. “I mean they really played hard that second game.”

Woodinville 4, Eastlake 3

Eastlake suffered a heart-breaking defeat in the championship game, 4-3, to Woodinville.

Bunger broke a 2-2 tie with one out in the top of the seventh, drilling a home run over the left center field fence.

Woodinville rallied in the bottom half of the inning. Zoe Thiemann led the inning off with a single. Kaaren Hatlen followed with a sacrifice bunt. Bunger turned and threw to second to get the lead runner. The umpire ruled the runner safe, however, creating an uproar of controversy from the Eastlake bench.

Woodinville used the momentum, getting a one-out RBI single from Maggie Wagner and a game-winning hit from Lauren Hamilton. Woodinville earned the No. 1 seed from District 2 and faces Wilson in the first round.