District 2A and 4A softball begins Friday as Olympic, North Kitsap, South Kitsap seek state berths; Bainbridge plays Thursday
BREMERTON — As a year-round softball player, Molly Gates has seen a lot of pitchers.
She’s witnessed a lot of great hitters too. Traveling to major softball tournaments with her select team, the
She’s hoping those hundreds of at-bats translate to plenty of hits for the Trojans as they head to the 2A West Central District tournament at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey this week.
The Trojans will face White River at noon Friday. A win moves Olympic into the quarterfinals and a meeting with Lindbergh at 2 p.m. A second win, and the Trojans are going back to the state tournament for the second time in as many seasons.
Gates said heading into a high school district tourney is different than a major select softball tournament in the summer.
“We know who are the big teams are already going in (but) going into district, and even state, there’s schools we’ve never even heard of,” Gates said, “so it’s different in that aspect not knowing what to expect.”
In her approach, Gates said she’ll treat it like any other game.
“It’s another pitcher, another at-bat,” she said.
The Trojans have had an up-and-down season. They won some key games and also, admittedly, lost games they shouldn’t have.
There were lessons learned there, Olympic coach Jessica Cabato said, adding the team had to fight through situations they weren’t expecting. Pitcher Morgan Kroesser missed a few games at the end of the season due to complications with her knee on her planting leg when she throws. While not season ending it did force Gates and Riley Burdyshaw to step up and pitch in Kroesser’s absence.
That wasn’t ideal, Cabato said, as it takes Gates out of the shortstop position.
Gates is a defensive whiz in the number six spot. She has a fielding percentage of .733 with four errors in 18 games. Her hitting has also increased this season as she moved from the leadoff spot to batting third. She has a batting average of .770 in 61 at-bats. She’s driven in 37 runs while scoring 51, hit 14 home runs, 11 doubles and seven triples.
“She is consistent, very, very consistent,” Cabato said. “Even if she’s not hitting home runs, which she does fairly often, but even when she’s not doing that she’s hitting hard gappers. She makes things happen on the bases and not many kids can get as many triples as she does in a season. She’s a very good baserunner so she wreaks havoc all over the place.”
Gates is also more disciplined at the plate. That has led to 15 walks and just three strikeouts and an on-base percentage of .810. She’s also a perfect 17-for-17 in steal attempts.
All those numbers add up to a player who the Trojans count on time and again. Gates doesn’t shy away from the role.
“I’m just going to come out and do the best that I can do, do the most for my team that I could possibly do,” she said, adding the Trojans have to go into each game believing they can get hits off any pitcher.
“I think just having that confidence is what’s going to help us,” she said. “And also believing in our pitcher, Morgan, playing behind her and doing the most that we can do. She’s stepped up big for us this year.”
Gates has the ability to turn the tide for the Trojans, either with her bat or her glove. It’s why college coaches had Gates on their radar early. But Gates is spoken for now. She gave her verbal commitment to play at North Dakota State University, an NCAA Division I program in Fargo, earlier this season. The Bison play in the Summit League and are coached by Darren Mueller.
Gates said when she visited the school she immediately connected with the people.
“I just didn’t think I’d be going to a school like that,” she said. “I always wanted to go to California where it’s warm and there’s a lot of people.”
Gates said the athletic facilities are top-notch, which was also a big draw.
“They’re a very competitive team and so I’m just excited to help them to go to the next level,” she said.
Now that the high school season is down to the wire, Gates said the struggles the Trojans went through toughened the team for the postseason.
“It’s opened our eyes to we can’t take anything for granted,” she said. “One error is all it took to lose to North. I think it has made us tougher. Every little thing matters now because everybody’s here, all the teams here, want to win. We just have to step up and compete.”
There are six berths to state on the line and each one of the 16 teams facing off at the RAC can earn a spot, including the Trojans.
“I think they’re peaking at a really good time,” Cabato said. “They have the potential to make a really good playoff run.”
2A West Central District
At RAC, Lacey
Noon— Olympic vs. White River (winner plays at 2 p.m., loser at 5 p.m. in elimination game)
2 p.m. — Franklin Pierce/Orting winner vs North Kitsap (winner to state)
4A West Central/Southwest District
At Kent Service Ballclub Fields
4:30 p.m. — Kentwood vs. South Kitsap
(Win or lose, South plays again at 7 p.m.)
3A SeaKing District
At SWAC, Seattle
7 p.m. — Bainbridge vs. Juanita (winner fifth/loser out)