McNary’s Brittney Gonzalez hurls the ball to first for an out in the Celts game with McKay High School. (KEIZERTIMES/ Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Lady Celts’ varsity softball team had a shot at tying for first place in the league with an away win over South Salem High School Thursday, past press time.

“We’ll face teams just as good or better than South Salem. If we can’t get it with South it’s only going to get harder, but we can change that around with one nice performance,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach.

Only one Celtic run has crossed the plate in McNary’s two previous meetings with the team, while the Saxons racked up 23 in 11 innings.

“We play great defense against them, we just need to string hits together and we’ll do well,” said Celt Dani Saunders.

“We just need to relax and know we can beat them. They’re not totally amazing, we need to make sure we’re not making any mental or physical errors,” added Keri Bonn.

McNary’s schedule last week kicked off with their second loss to the Saxon team, 13-1.

“We got off to a good start pitching wise and they scraped out a run, but we didn’t do a heck of a lot offensively. They got a couple of runners on and had an eight-run fifth to make it 9-0 and we came back and got one,” Auvinen said.

The Celts bounced back to win a contest with Sprague High School, 7-0. Pitcher Jordyn Hanson threw 47 pitches for a three-hit shutout with one strike out.

“They decided to go ahead with their plan to walk Hailey [Decker] a bunch of times and she made them pay by scoring a few runs,” Auvinen said.

A follow-up game with McKay ended in a lopsided 23-0 victory for the Celts in five innings. The Celts were helped to the win by 18 walks and six hit batters by Royal Scot pitchers, McNary scored its nearly two dozen runs on 10 hits.

Hanson threw her second three-hit shutout of the week and went 3 for 5 with a double and four RBIs. Paige Bouska and Saunders also hit doubles in the game.

In general, Bonn was pleased with the week’s progress.

“I think we were doing well defensively, but we had lots of good plays in the infield and outfield. Lots of good hits and bunts,” she said.

With their prospects looking good for the postseason, Saunders said the team will likely rely on its defensive efforts.

“We’re really good at getting outs and getting them right away,” she said.