WASHINGTON — Senior leadership has been paramount for this season's Washington softball team.
However, the Warriors don't have strength in numbers with their senior class.
Third-ranked Washington (22-9) enters the Class 3A fastpitch state tournament led by just one senior, pitcher Allison Wells.
“Our team is extremely confident when she's out there,” said Bryan Howard, who is in his fifth year as Washington's head coach. “That's every bit as important as balls and strikes. Her leadership has given us the best chemistry we've had since I've been here. We're beyond fortunate to have her.”
Wells, who has been the lone player in her class since her sophomore year, hasn't earned the respect of her teammates by barking orders. Instead, she's used her knowledge of the game and laid-back approach to lead by example.
“I've been ready for this role for a while now,” she said. “For me, it's about making sure everyone is doing the right things to help each other out and setting a good example because my teammates are going to feed off how I'm acting.”
The senior has set quite an example with what she's done in the circle this season, going 16-3 with a 2.19 ERA and 142 strikeouts. She set a career high with 13 strikeouts in a win over Perry during the regional tournament last week.
“This is by far the most comfortable I've been going into the state tournament,” she said. “I've got a great defense playing behind me and I think we're really playing our best right now.”
Pitching and defense have been consistent all season for Washington, but now the bats appear to have come alive at just the right time.
Wells (.371), freshman Aly Clemence (.351), sophomore Callie Busby (.356), and juniors Brittany Ball (.366) and Brooke Rains (.337) lead the way for a balanced lineup that features speed and power.
Rains belted two home runs while going 7-for-9 during the regional tournament as the Warriors outscored their opponents 36-5 in three games.
“That's as good as we've swung the bats all season,” Howard said. “You hope that carries over to this week. If we swing the bats anything like we did in regionals it's going to be very tough to beat us.”
The Warriors have seven starters back from last season's team, which advanced to the state semifinals.
“That will certainly help this year,” Howard said of his team's experience. “Mostly our focus is we're not OK with just getting here. We get here a lot. We want to win it.”
For Wells, the reality of her high school fastpitch career coming to close has begun to set in. But as long as she comes away with a state championship, she's fine with it.
“I'm going to leave it all our there this weekend,” Wells said. “Fastpitch is what I've worked my hardest for. I started pitching when I was 11, so I feel like I've been working for this since then.”
Washington is set to take on Meeker at 11 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the state tournament. All games in the 3A tournament will be played on Field 4 at The Ball Fields at Firelake in Shawnee.