By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A pair of losses and a winning streak by Sprague High School in softball had the Lady Celts battling for second place in the Central Valley Conference Tuesday, May 10, but McNary pulled out a 4-1 win that should secure the team second place in the league.

Last week, the Celtics fell to the league champion South Salem High School for a third time this season in a 18-3 five-inning rout.

“There’s a lot of girls on the South team that we know and we get really uptight about playing them,” said Celt Beth Bello.

Bello said the problems started when the Saxons dialed in on pitcher Jordyn Hanson low balls and led to an 11-run second inning.

“Their natural swing is down so they had her number,” said pitcher Tiffany Kottek. “I was throwing some rises when I got in and they seemed to not hit them as far.”

Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach, described the game as symptomatic of a recent “rough patch” for the team.

“We haven’t pitched, haven’t defended and haven’t hit. We need to rediscover the things we’ve shown glimpses of in earlier games.” he said.

Prior to meeting with the Saxons, the girls fell to West Salem High School 5-1.

“The game before that we had North and a slow pitcher, so I think we had some trouble readjusting to the fast pitches from West Salem,” Auvinen said.

McNary’s sole run came from the bat of Paige Bouska knocking in Hailey Decker who had made it to third on a triple.

“We didn’t play well defensively, we calmed down, but we couldn’t string the hits together ended up stranding runners,” Auvinen said.

McNary’s only win in the three-game week came against North Salem. The Celtics had two four-run innings and an eight-run fifth to drown out the Vikings.

“Jordyn had a nice day on the mound and Hailey, Paige and Olivia Yarbrough all had a nice day at the plate,” Auvinen said.

League play ends this week and Auvinen was eager for the opportunity to string together a few days of practice before the postseason begins a week from Monday, but the team plans on playing two non-league games in the off week.

“We’ve been playing so many games we haven’t time to work on little things. It’ll be nice to have that mix of practice and opponents because it’s good to have the surprise of opponents we haven’t gotten a look at during the season,” he said.

Bello said the team needs focus on of achieving a higher level of play each time they are on the field.

“We need to work on getting better rather than just stay where we’re at – challenging ourselves,” she said.