AR hopes forecast calls for a trophy

She spends seven innings almost every softball game throwing heat.

She spends seven innings almost every softball game throwing heat.

If the Auburn Riverside junior pitcher Amanda Fitzsimmons had her way, she’d spend the same seven innings absorbing some heat. Not from opponents’ bats, but rather from that golden globe in the sky, which has put in far too few appearances during this soggy spring.

Things changed last weekend when the thermometer and Fitzsimmons got hot simultaneously.

With temperatures in the 80s, Fitzsimmons struck out 13 in a 2-0 first-round West Central-Southwest District tournament victory against Olympic, 12 more in a 2-0 quarterfinal win against Capital and six in the semifinals as the Ravens beat Enumclaw, 3-0. She even had three – all of them in a row – in one inning of relief in AR’s 6-5 loss to Timberline in the final.

“I actually perform better in the heat. My shoulder gets sore when it gets cold,” said Fitzsimmons, who had shoulder surgery before the season.

It’s not expected to be either warm or cold – just upper 60s to low 70s this weekend when Fitzsimmons and the rest of the Ravens try to turn up the heat in the Class 3A state tournament at South End Recreation Area in Tacoma.After falling one win short of a trophy in 2007, Auburn Riverside, which brought a 19-5 overall record into Friday morning’s opener against North Central of Spokane (results unavailable). The tournament continues today with semifinals, consolation play and two trophy games: one for the championship, one for third place.

“We have our defense, and when we slack on defense, we have our offense to pick it up,” said Roxie Schwarz, who squats behind the plate and catches Fitzsimmons’ heat. “We have a mental game, and we know how to keep each other up.”

The easiest way for the Ravens to do that is simply to win games. But even when that didn’t happen – such as in last week’s district title game, when Timberline escaped with that 6-5 decision – Riverside opted for silver clouds rather than dark ones.

“It’s a tough district. All the teams are very good teams and have a chance to compete at state,” said senior outfielder and leadoff hitter Katie Grad, noting that two of the Ravens’ seven South Puget Sound League 3A rivals – Enumclaw and Bonney Lake – also made the 16-team state field. “It wasn’t exactly where we wanted to be (finishing second). But we have to look at it from the bright side.”

Katie Sellers, who pitched the championship game save for one middle inning of relief by Fitzsimmons, also saw the district tourney as just the tune-up the Ravens needed.

“After last weekend, I think we’re ready,” Sellers said. “We all want it, and we all want to win.”

The Ravens’ offense delivered in every game in district play, out-hitting all four opponents: 6-1 against Olympic, 9-2 against Capital, 4-2 against Enumclaw, and even 8-6 against victorious Timberline in the championship contest.

“We got a lot of our confidence back,” Fitzsimmons said. “Saturday, we were a lot more confident at the plate.”

Grad pulled no punches in saying that it’ll take all of that and then some to haul home some hardware from Tacoma this weekend.

“It all depends on what game we bring,” she said. “Everyone has to be there on the field, and everyone has to come with their bats ready.”