Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Legacy year for Western softball ends after national finals

Vikings made program history, shattering the record book in multiple categories

From left to right: Alli Kimball, Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez and Emily Paulson applaud the audience as they advance to the national finals after their second victory over the University of Indianapolis at Boombah-Soldiers Creek Park in Longwood, Fla., on May 22, 2024. // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics

Western Washington University softball had a historical season reaching the NCAA DII softball National Championship finals in Longwood, Florida. This was the first time Western softball made an appearance in the title game. 

The Vikings traveled 3,200 miles to Longwood to battle for the National Championship against seven other teams. 

Western won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship, NCAA Softball West Regional and the Super West Regional with a seven-run comeback win against Cal State Dominguez Hills to send them to nationals. 

“It gave them confidence that the West is tough, and if we’re the best in the West, then we have a chance,” head coach Sheryl Gilmore said. 

The Vikings fought through the national finals, including a win over the University of Indianapolis, which ended in a 12-inning pitching battle between Western pitchers Alli Kimball and Kaiana Kong and UIndy pitcher Kenzee Smith.

“I love being able to come through in these situations for my team,” Kong said. “The two biggest things that keep me composed is talking to my infielders and keeping my confidence.” 

The Vikings advanced to the national finals by winning the second elimination game against UIndy in a 7-1 victory. 

After losing the three-game series 2-0, the Viking's season ultimately ended to the University of Texas at Tyler in the national finals, ending their season with a 50-12 record. 

Kong ended her season allowing 26 earned runs in 130.2 innings pitched for a 1.39 ERA with 11 saves and an honorable mention for the D2CCA All-American team. 

Both Kimball and Kong earned All-GNAC honors this season. Kimball ended the season allowing 34 earned runs in 169.1 innings pitched for a 1.41 ERA and a spot on the All-West Region Second Team.

“I try to slow the game down any chance I get,” Kimball said. “Whether something does not go our way or the game is just getting very quick, I keep composed through many deep breaths and working at my pace rather than the batters.”

Hailey Rath slides through the mud as the Vikings celebrate their GNAC Championship victory at Viking Field in Bellingham, Wash., on May 4, 2024. // Photo courtesy of Imogene Eagan, WWU Athletics

Freshman infielder Maleah Andrews played an important role in keeping the team calm and collected.  

“I’ve always got my teammates back and the last thing I want for our pitchers is for them to stress about the situation,” Andrews said. “I do my best to give them all the energy I’ve got so they can have the confidence to go out there and do their thing.” 

Andrews earned herself the GNAC Softball Championship MVP, a spot on the All-GNAC First Team and Second Team All-West Region, leading the Vikings in batting average (.354).

“Not only the coaches but the players on this team have become a second family … they have become such a huge part of my life. … I love where I’m at and it’s ‘Go Viks’ all the way,” Andrews said.

Other team leaders include shortstop Hailey Rath, who earned All-GNAC First Team, Second Team All-West Region, an honorable mention for the D2CCA All-American team and was the GNAC Softball Player of the Year. 

Catcher Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez earned All-GNAC Second Team and Second Team All-West Region by leading the team in slugging percentage (.613), runs batted in (56) and home runs (18). Her 18 home runs were the single-season home run record for Western. 

Andrewjeski-Ramirez almost quit playing softball altogether in 2023 while at BYU, but transferred to Western to play with her best friend and right fielder McKenna Crum

“She’s the whole reason I’m here,” she said, “I couldn’t be more grateful for McKenna and Sheryl [Gilmore], for inviting me to be a part of this team.”

Other team members to earn commendations include Joie Baker and Ashley Jacobson, who each earned a spot on the All-GNAC teams. Baker was an honorable mention and Jacobson made the first team. Gilmore also earned GNAC Softball Coach of the Year. 

Culture is of high importance to the coaching staff of Western softball. In the dugout hang a sign saying “Person > Player.”

“We do it for our student-athletes because we value them as people over what they can do on the field. We care more about their character than their batting average,” Gilmore said. “To lead this group of young women — it's important for me to value that in myself too.” 

Gilmore is in her sixth year as head coach at Western. She previously coached at Edmonds College for four years and has been coaching since she was 18. 

The Vikings faced adversity with unwavering tenacity and played for each other every step of the way, said Forrest Loganecker, graduate assistant for Western softball. “Reflecting on the season and our journey through the postseason, the overwhelming sense of pride we feel about making it to nationals is undeniable.”

Nathan Barber

Nathan Barber is in his third year at Western and will be majoring in Visual Journalism. He’s an avid kitty cat enthusiast. You can usually find him either on Mount Baker during the weekends, or at the skate park in downtown Bellingham during the week. Reach him at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front