The Kingco 4A tourney has long been Woodinville’s rite of passage. A precursor to playing for all the marbles in the State Tournament.
But not so this season.
Last Thursday, as the final out was recorded, the Newport Knights rushed from their dugout to celebrate near second base. The Woodinville Falcons, meanwhile, walked off the field looking stunned.
The day before, Woodinville had lost to Eastlake in the Kingco 4A Championship. Now they had lost 9-1 to Newport. This meant that Eastlake and Newport advanced to Spokane this week for the 4A State Tournament. And the Lady Falcons, for the first time in recent memory, will stay home.
Woodinville’s Megan Taketa wrapped her arm around the shoulder of teammate Rachael Rhinehart. She glanced in Newport’s direction as the Lady Knights laughed, hugged and screamed for joy.
“They played a great game and they deserve to celebrate,” Taketa said. “But for us, a loss is a loss. We’re really disappointed. We had high hopes. We had set our hopes high. We had such a good regular season and had so much potential.”
Just two days earlier, Woodinville was 18-1 on the season. They had only lost one game over the past two years.
But the consecutive losses last week left them with an 18-3 record. It had been a sensational season, but didn’t feel that way. As reality sunk in, Falcon players and coaches hugged, cried and talked quietly amongst themselves.
“It caught us by surprise, we were so confident,” Woodinville coach Dani Tachell said. “It’s just a disappointment. You have to be perfect in the tournament. When you go down like that, it’s disappointing. You can’t miss a ball. You can’t fall asleep on a pitch... We need to be disciplined in everything we do… It cost us today.”
One admirable sight was Woodinville starting pitcher Rachael Rhinehart. Both her shoulder and foot had been heavily wrapped in ice. The junior grindedthrough three complete games in three days. She also got drilled in the foot by a wicked line drive versus Eastlake.
“I’m very sore,” Rhinehart said quietly. “My foot really hurts. But I’m just upset because we could have done a lot better than we did.”
Rhinehart, who pitched so magnificently during the regular season, surrendered 16 runs in the final two games. Last year, Woodinville had twins Lauryn and Taylor Rhinehart as dominant pitchers. When one faltered, the other could be summoned to the mound. But this year the Falcons had no other experienced pitcher. So Rhinehart The Younger had to gut it out and endure alone.
Coach Tachell teared up when talking about Rachael.
“I’m so impressed with that kid,” Tachell said. “She brings her heart into everything she does. She’s never defeated. She’s always a fighter and carries her team. She’s a workhorse. Her older sisters were fighters too but they had each other to fall back on. Rachael didn’t have that. And so when she got bruised and battered she had to weather through. It was hard to see her out there going through that.”
In the coming weeks, the disappointment will wear off from this year’s playoff. Thoughts will then turn to next year. The future looks bright. The roster is populated with blossoming stars like Bailey Burger-Moore, Megan and Molly Taketa, Rachael Rhinehart, Charlotte Grover, Mikaelie Sullivan and Brooke Tilson.
“We have a big bulk of our team coming back next year,” Tachell said. “I expect us to do very well. The postseason makes you grow up really fast. We are very lucky to have had these experiences. Win or lose you get the experience of the pressure under the lights… Next year they are going to be even more confident and know more what their roles are.”