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It's not just home runs, Jackson shows small-ball side in defense of Class 4A softball crown

The Timberwolves escape Kamiakin, 3-1, in the state quarterfinals on back-to-back RBI bunts in the 10th inning in Spokane

SPOKANE - If you haven't been in the boiling cauldron of WIAA Class 4A state softball tournament play, you might not know.

Kyle Peacocke knows.

Peacocke has guided his top-ranked Jackson Timberwolves to many big games, including back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019.

So what did his team do for three practices this week leading up to the 4A tournament at Dwight Merkel Sports Complex?

Bunting rehearsal.

And with their three-peat hopes hanging in the balance Friday, all that work came in handy. Jackson scored its winning runs in the 10th inning on bunts by Leneyah Mitchell and Avery Hare to manufacture a 3-1 state quarterfinal victory over determined Kamiakin.

WIAA Class 4A state softball action in Spokane, quarterfinals with Kamiakin pitcher Maggie O'Leary

Kamiakin's Maggie O'Leary was brilliant in helping the Braves go extra innings in a 3-1 loss to No. 1 Jackson.

"One of the things we've learned going into the state tournament is that you are going to face really good pitching," Peacocke said. "We spent hours bunting ... in case we needed to use it."

Jackson advances to play 4A GSHL champion Skyview, a 2-1 winner over league rival Battle Ground.

Redmond and Puyallup will play in the other state semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Mustangs stopped Kentwood, 5-1. The Vikings cooled down Skyline, 2-0, on a blustery day at the ballpark.

But the game of the day came down to a matchup with irony. The Timberwolves are trying to become the first program to win three consecutive Class 4A titles - something Kamiakin was the only school to do in the Class 3A ranks (2012-14).

Jackson led 1-0 - until Joelie Eder hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to tie the game.

In the 10th inning, Peacocke decided to roll the dice with Mitchell at the plate. He called for a suicide squeeze.

Jackson vs. Yelm at 2022 Auburn Riverside Fastpitch Invitational

Longtime Jackson softball coach Kyle Peacocke called for a suicide squeeze to break a 1-1 tie in the 10th inning against Kamiakin.

Mitchell laid a bunt down in the line of the pitcher, and Emery Tulio scored the winning from third base for a 2-1 Jackson lead.

"Their pitcher (Maggie O'Leary) was doing an unbelievable job, and I knew that was our best chance to score," Peacocke said. "So I went for it."

In the next at-bat, Hare delivered a push bunt past the charging infielders down the first-base line for an easy RBI, and 3-1 Timberwolves' lead.

"(Bunting practice) paid off an incredible amount," Mitchell said. "We needed that. We were struggling to hit in this game."

Redmond and Puyallup finally figured out the pitching puzzles so few teams had in this postseason.

Vikings' ninth grader Gracie Ream outdueled 4A KingCo pitcher of the year Ryan Grace, tossing a two-hitter and striking out 10. She also hit a sixth-inning home run to give her team a 2-0 lead.

"One thing I can say about Gracie, she competes on anything and everything," first-year Puyallup softball coach Alec Elliott said.

And the Vikings get the Ream sisters - Gracie and Chloe - for just one season. Their family is moving to Texas this summer.

"If we took state, that would be pretty cool," Gracie Ream said.

Four unearned runs doomed Kentwood, which got another strong start from sophomore standout Sarah Wright (six innings, 13 strikeouts, one earned run). But Redmond's Grace Haegele was just a little bit better - no earned runs in complete-game five-hitter.

Kentwood grabbed a 1-0 lead on Sarah Rothenberger two-out RBI single in the first inning. But the Mustangs immediately tied it on leadoff hitter Tia Milloy's rocket line-drive home run off Wright to right center.

In an all-Vancouver quarterfinal, Skyview's Maddi Scull scored the game-winning run on an error in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and the Storm is in its first state semifinal since 2011.

WIAA 2022 Class 4A state softball action in Spokane, quarterfinals with Tia Milloy

Tia Milloy got the Redmond offense going again with her leadoff home run against Kentwood and ace pitcher Sarah Wright in the Class 4A quarterfinals.