Walk off sends Bulldog softball to state

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Montesano High School fastpitch’s Allysa Gustafson stepped to the plate in the seventh inning with one out, one on and her team down 3-2 to Woodland in a winner-to-state game on May 21 and did something no Monte player had done before. The freshman designated hitter slugged a walk-off home run to win the game and send the Bulldogs to that state tournament this coming weekend.

“We’ve never had a walk-off home run to get us to state in the bottom of the seventh,” coach Pat Pace said. “I think we had Woodland pretty stunned there because they weren’t leaving the field.”

After beating Kalama, 8-4, in the first round of the District IV 1A softball tournament on May 21, Montesano faced Woodland, the No. 1 seed out of the Trico League, with the winner earning a spot in the district champoinship game and a guaranteed spot in the state tournament.

The first six innings were the dictionary definition of a pitching duel with Montesano’s Madison Didion pitching a no-hitter through five innings and the Woodland pitcher keeping the Bulldogs without a single until the fifth inning. Then, in the seventh inning, the Beavers strung together a few singles to score three runs and it looked as though Montesano would be headed to a loser-out game.

Pua Cavanah led off the bottom of the seventh for Monte and popped up to the first baseman, but the Woodland player dropped the ball, giving the Bulldogs a runner. Makenzie Howard followed with a bunt single and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with no outs for junior Hannah Jensen, who slapped a long single to put Monte on the board and cut the lead to 3-2. A pop-up on a bunt attempt gave Monte an out and sent Gustafson to the plate.

After a pitch inside, Pace had a quick conference with the freshman.

“I just asked her, ‘Have they been pitching you inside,’ because I was going to tell her to back off the plate, but she said ‘No, coach. It has been down the middle every time.’ And I said, ‘Alright then stay where you are at.’ So I guess that was their mistake. She is very quiet. She might be one of the quietest kids on the team, but she speaks very loudly with her swing.”

Gustafson made Monte’s 17th consecutive qualification for the state tournament one of the most dramatic in school history, but for her it was all about the team.

“I was thinking that I just needed to make contact, so that we wouldn’t lose, and just hit the ball the best I could,” Gustafson said. “It feels great. We are just keeping the tradition going of going to state each year. I will remember the team mostly, maybe not so much the hit because it wasn’t all me. Mostly the team.”