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If you know Kaiea Higa, she wasn't going to make the final out of her illustrious Tahoma softball career

The Oregon State University signee battled injuries, but gave fans more than a few 'Wow!' moments with her towering tape-measure home runs

KENT - In the spring of 2019, when pitching was in a mini-golden era of pitching in softball, there was one slugger who made any high-velocity hurler nervous - even as a ninth grader.

Her name is Kaiea Higa, of Tahoma High School.

Higa, an Oregon State University signee, wrapped up her illustrious career Saturday in the Class 4A West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament at Kent Service Fields.

Needing to win a consolation game to reach the state playoffs, the Bears lost to Emerald Ridge, 14-3, in five innings.

Higa did her best to help the team advance. All three of her home runs this season came in the district tournament, including one against the Jaguars.

But the youthful Bears could not keep Emerald Ridge at bay. And with two outs in the fifth inning, Higa came up to bat.

And she fell behind  0-2 in the count.

It was then she dug in and told herself she wasn't going to go out with a whimper and make the final out of her career.

"I still kept my breathing normal, but in my head I am saying, 'This is not going to be my final at-bat for my career,'" Higa said. "(The pitcher) served it up in a good spot ... and I went with it (the other way to right field). It was a good feeling."

Of all the accomplishments Higa will take with her from Tahoma, including a school-record 26 career home runs in what amounts to 21/2 seasons, the one that keeps her smiling the most.

Her mentorship.

"I want to be known as a great leader," Higa said. "I really like to work with these girls. We had a younger team this year, and I really wanted to bring us together to see what we were capable of."

Tahoma lost six of its first seven games, and many wondered if the Bears would even make a run to the playoffs.

But the Bears won eight of their final 10 games in the regular season, then beat Rogers of Puyallup and Decatur to set up an do-or-die district playoff game Saturday morning against Emerald Ridge.

"It was important for me not to be a 'Mom' or a babysitter - and treat them as equals," Higa said. "We were a way different team later in the season compared to earlier."

Higa broke the school's single-game home run mark with 16 home runs as a ninth grader in 2019. The Bears won two games at the state tournament in Spokane.

The next year - wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic - Higa tore her achilles and missed months of action.

In a shortened junior season, she socked eight home runs - and finished up with the three blasts as a senior.

"I am so ready (to go to Oregon State). It's been about four years and counting," Higa said. "This happened, and now it is on to better things."

She will leave behind a Ruth-ian reputation for hitting the long ball.

"That is totally fine - I cannot be mad at that," she said, laughing. "But I have wheels on the bases as well."