Lady Celt Dani Saunders takes a cut during McNary’s game with South Salem High School Monday, May 7. McNary lost the match-up 10-0 allowing the Saxons to clinch the Central Valley Conference title for the 2012 season. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity softball team lost its shot at first place in the Central Valley Conference last week and stumbled Monday in a game that saw their opponents, South Salem High School, clinch it for the 2012 season.

Things started out rough for the Celts Monday, May 7, and didn’t get much better as game ended in a 10-0 loss.

“They took it to us in every facet. We had four errors we had on. They had 13 hits and we had three. We struck out 10 times and they struck out once,” said Jeff Auvinen, McNary head coach.

The Celts committed an error that allowed the Saxons their lead-off hitter to put their first run on the board and two more unearned runs put McNary behind 3-0.

A base hit by Paige Bouska got the team going, Olivia Yarbrough advanced her to third and a Hailey Decker walk loaded the bases with no outs. An infield grounder brought up a forced out as Bouska tried to make it home and strikeouts – the first of seven in the top three innings – ended the inning.

“We kind of shut them down for four innings, but it’s hard to compete when you’re not putting the ball into play at all.”

South earned three runs on two homers in the sixth inning and four unearned runs gave the Saxons the final score.

McNary went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring positions.

The Celts had hoped to take a firmer grip on second place with a make-up game against West Salem high School last week, but the Titans escaped with a 4-2 win.

Three unearned runs in the third inning did little to help the McNary cause, and a two-run homer by Jordyn Hanson closed the gap, but the Celts never gained the traction they needed to overcome the deficit.

With only two games remaining in CVC play, McNary was tied for second place alongside West Salem.

The Celts will avoid a play-in game for a state playoff berth, but Auvinen doesn’t plan on letting the team rest. A Monday, May 14, match-up with Central Catholic High School is already on tap, but he’s hoping more opponents will opt-in for games.

“We need to be doing everything better right now,” Auvinen said. “A lot of the teams are hesitant to play, but I want to play as much as possible.”