Raiders hold eye of the storm

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Marji Harris / Staff Photo
Ashley Howell (No. 20) is shown batting for the Raiders’ softball game.

Women’s Pierce softball: too legit to quit

On May 1, the Pierce Raiders and the Skagit Valley Cardinals competed at the level of superior athletes from the start. The sun was shining over the field and the crowd cheered for the young athletes while they performed in one of the closest matches they’ve had all season.

Prior to facing the Cardinals, the Raiders endured a lengthy and heartbreaking day against the fierce Edmond Tritons, who rank in at number two on the nwac bracket. Pierce pushed back with everything they had but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

“They have nothing to feel bad about. They competed like champions against one of the toughest teams around in a game that lasted much longer than expected, leaving them fatigued going into their next event,” said Duncan Stevenson.

Marji Harris / Staff Photo
Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks (No. 11) is shown pitching.

No. 11, Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks, pitching performance was highly impressive. She maintained a tight focus, keeping the pressure and throwing no-hitters for most of the game. The Raiders won the game 4-2.

No. 4, Allyssa Hansen, struggled earlier in the season due to a spinal injury. “She hurt her lower back, but made a steady recovery and continues to play,” said Austin Procter, Allyssa Hansen’s boyfriend.

Sparks, who is a sophomore, came in from Lacey, Washington after graduating out of Timberline High School. She earned the position as primary pitcher for the team, holding a pitching average of 11.56 and continues to mature into a bold young adversary.

Sparks is a strong contender, knowledgeable advocate and a graceful colleague. “She’s been a tremendous benefit to the crew, with a positive attitude and good sportsmanship. She’s also been a dependable side coach, always helping her peers,” said head coach, Mike Nelson.

“I am honored to have trained them. They are absolute warriors,” said Nelson.

Challenges were faced without a full team, but it promoted a sense solidarity. “We lost our main pitcher and a couple other girls along the way. Being short numbered helped us grow closer, connecting as a team,” said Riley Rivera (utility).

Nelson had a tough ride but in the end earned the team’s respect. “He’s been an outstanding mentor, taking the position on short notice and training us to compete on a whole new level. It wasn’t easy for him either since he never got to hand pick us during tryouts,” Rivera said.

No. 2, Kayla Washington, played third base and has been competing since she was ten.

“She’s the youngest of her two sisters,” said Washington’s mother, Kelley Washington. “This is her last year while studying for her associate’s degree. Her two sisters before her competed too and received scholarships for Howard University,” she said.

No matter what the girls went through… they never caved to the pressure.”

— Mike Nelson, Head Coach

Washington is the top batter for the team, always impressing the crowd as she steps to the plate while holding an average of .313. “Her confidence level is fierce. Everybody gets excited whenever she’s up to bat. She consistently performs well and always looks for improvement,” said Nelson.

Washington and Sparks used to compete against each other during their youth. “When they were ten years old, they were rivals from different schools,” said Kelley Washington.

Lily Hope, No. 15, plays shortstop and gave an impressive performance on the field as her boyfriend, Jacob Link, watched from the sidelines. “She’s doing great. They (the team) get along well and maintain their studies together,” said Link.

Hope has been an outstanding well-rounded competitor all season, showing every other competitor she’s worth it, claiming her time on the field. “Hope is a courageous young athlete. She’s the kind of athlete that makes plays nobody else can make,” said Nelson.

The Raiders fought through every injury and training exercise, surpassing every challenge with pride. “No matter what the girls went through or wounds they received during practice and events, they never caved to the pressure,” said Nelson.

As the season wraps up, the Raiders have no regrets with everything they’ve accomplished this year. “I enjoyed every moment as their coach and look forward to next year. They’re a tough bunch and deserve every bit of recognition for their efforts. Go-Raiders!” said Nelson.