By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes
The Lady Celts varsity softball team proved Friday that it can scratch out a win against a quality opponent.
McNary, which was held hitless through the first five innings, pushed across all of its runs in the sixth inning, then hung on for the 3-2 win against the Saxons of South Salem.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth and South up 1-0, Keri Stein, the Celts’ left fielder and ninth hitter, drew a walk.
She stole second on a pitch in the dirt to put the tying run in scoring position. Hannah Bouska, who is headed to Oregon State next fall, singled home Stein.
An Olivia Yarbrough bunt was mishandled to put runners on first and third.
“It was kind of an important bunt to get down, just because we needed to move the runners,” said Yarbrough, a sophomore. “I just tried to do everything I could to make sure I got it down. I didn’t want to miss it and have something happen.”
Mission accomplished, even though the pitch was a bit difficult to handle.
“I noticed it was high, so I kind of focused on making sure I got it down instead of a pop up so they could catch it for an out.”
That set the stage for what McNary Coach Jeff Auvinen called “the play of the game.”
Auvinen sent Olivia with two strikes on Hailey Decker.
“(Hailey) hits a line drive to shortstop and we’re dead to right, but the shortstop kind of hesitated a little bit and threw a so-so ball over to first, which the first baseman didn’t handle. The defensive lapse was kind of a lucky break on our part.”
On the miscue, Bouska scored from third and Yarbrough ended up on second, where she was singled home by Courtney Castronovo.
“I was just thinking ‘hit the ball,’” said Castronovo of her at-bat. “I just hit it. Just hoping that no one would catch it and that it would go into a hole, and that the runner would score.”
The hit got past the Saxons’ pitcher and shortstop and into the outfield.
In its half of the seventh, South added another run and had the tying run at second, but a lazy infield fly ended the game.
The fact the Saxons’ tying run was left stranded was par for the course on this day. As Celts’ starting pitcher Erin Henton was at her best with runners in scoring position.
In fact, three of her four strikeouts came with a Saxon runner in scoring position. And the game’s final two outs came on routine play, thus stranding the tying run on second.
“Erin battled,” said Auvinen. “She’s been doing a great job. They out hit us eight to three, but she kind of scattered their hits in most the innings. She came up big, along with our defense.”
The Saxons threatened to double its advantage in the fifth, but a suicide squeeze attempt failed when the bunt was missed and the Saxons’ runner at third was thrown out.
South Salem starting pitcher Corrie Phillips took the loss despite allowing just three hits. She didn’t strike out a batter.
Each team began play ranked in the state’s top 10, and a playoff intensity was present with the first pitch.