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In a way, Hadley Dunham has already gained a game this week.

Of course, Dunham’s transfer from Walla Walla High to DeSales a little over a year ago had more benefits that one game at the state softball tournament. But still … Dunham and DeSales need win just three games to earn a title at the Class 1B tournament that begins against Naselle at Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima this Friday, while Dunham’s former team needs four wins in the Class 3A tournament in Lacey.

"The girls think they’re going to win," DeSales coach Pat Wahl said.

To do so, the Irish likely will need to traverse a gauntlet of their nemeses this season. Win that first-round game against the best west-side hopeful, and they earn a chance to play top-seeded Liberty Christian, a fellow 1B Southeast East Division squad that beat DeSales two out of three games this spring.

Win that, and it could be another league foe - No. 2 Colton - awaiting them Saturday at 2 p.m. in the championship game.

"We’re 0-3 against Colton," said Wahl, whose DeSales teams have taken third place in the state tournament four times over the years. "But what I get to tell the girls is that doesn’t matter here. They can be the first DeSales team to make a final."

The confluence of happenings that got the Irish to this point began more than a year ago, when Dunham made the decision as 2020 turned to 2021 to leave the public high school and join her sister, Kate, at DeSales.

"They were still doing online learning at Wa-Hi," Dunham said. "I wasn’t doing well with that. My sister was already here (at DeSales), and the school was back to in-person classes."

Suddenly, Wahl and the Irish had added a NCAA Division I weapon to their lineup. Dunham has signed to play at Seattle University beginning next season.

An outfielder primarily, Dunham quickly proved she could do just about anything DeSales needed.

Wahl initially shored up the Irish infield, moving his new star to first base. When the Irish had no catcher for the 2021-22 season, Dunham quickly adapted again, and won the 1B Southeast League most valuable player award this spring playing the position.

“When she came on, she was an ace center fielder,” Wahl said. “But I noticed she wasn’t get much action. It’s like in basketball. We needed to have her have the ball as much as we can. So I asked if she could play first base. I knew she’d probably save three or four errors a game.”

Wahl initially penciled Dunham in at shortstop for her senior year, putting her even more in the middle of things defensively despite her being left-handed. But things changed again.

First, both of the Irish’s pitchers from the 2021 season left. Tori Moon graduated while her sister, Layla, left the school.

With those departures Wahl figured DeSales would need a year to rebuild. Several returning and new players picked up the mantle and started to work on pitching last summer – including Dunham.

The way it settled out, sister Kate Dunham developed into the staff ace. And Dunham has enjoyed being the second half of the battery at catcher that has lifted the Irish to their current opportunity.

"It’s really different," Dunham said. "I’ve never caught before. But nobody else knew how to do it. I love catching her. I really get her, so it helps."

For help in learning the position, Dunham said she turned to a friend from her USA Explosion travel-ball team – catcher Madison Shell.

The move, Wahl said, has continued to make DeSales better.

"I had heard about her," Wahl said. "And we lucked out. She’s the type of player I’ve always wanted. So we wanted to utilize her as best we can. She bats first so I can get her up as many times as I can. And her aggressiveness kept base runners this year from moving base to base."

Offensively, Dunham has recorded a .768 average at the plate. She’s recorded 53 hits, scored 38 runs and driven in 20 runs. DeSales hopes she and the rest of the team stay hot – for just three more games.