A semifinal generated the tournament's biggest thrill.
Wallowa High School's softball team - trapped all season in third place, below Union High (last year's state champ) and Enterprise-Joseph (this spring's unbeatable frontrunner) - made a gallant leap up Special District 6's strict hierarchy. Wallowa's girls scored three runs in the last inning of their May 15 semifinal and shocked Union, 6-5, at Jensen Field in Enterprise.
Two days earlier, the Lady Cougars secured a place in the upcoming state playoffs by defeating the Antelopes from Adrian in a 12-2 decision.
And Wallowa's victory over Union in the district's semifinal sweetened the deal. Already this season, the Cougs had lost their previous four games against the Union High Bobcats. Even as Wallowa jumped ahead 3-0 in the semi's first inning, the girls recalled their April 11 meeting with Union. That afternoon, they surrendered a two-run lead over the Bobcats in the last inning. Once again, Union plated four runs in the playoff's sixth inning and needed three outs to eliminate Wallowa, 5-3.
But this time, the Cougars had an answer. Sophomore Johni Lotze sparked the rally by coaxing a base on balls. Senior Ayesha Wortman and sophomore Baylee Shelton followed with back-to-back singles. The Bobcats finally mustered an out, as they caught Shelton on sophomore Kuulei Delatori's hit. But Lotze and Wortman both scored. Delatori eventually added the go-ahead run, racing home on junior Dani Roberts' ground ball.
Later, from the pitching circle, Delatori sealed the Cougars' win. She began the bottom of the seventh with a strike out, her seventh of the game. After giving up a single, she caught a pop fly. A fly ball to McKenzie Shelton in center field ended the game.
At the end of the day, the Cougars returned home with the league's second-place trophy. Enterprise-Joseph won the championship, 14-1.
However, the Cougars became one of only 18 teams still in contention for the state's title. And their high ranking earned an automatic spot in the second round, when the brackets were narrowed to 16. Next, Wallowa will play May 26 at Lakeview High.