By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School varsity softball team needed a win over West Salem High School to help solidify its ranking in the Central Valley Conference with the state playoff tournament on the horizon.
Apparently, it wasn’t meant to be. The Titans rode an early lead in the game to a 6-5 win in an error-plagued game for the Lady Celts.
The loss means that the Celts’ final league game vs. Sprague High School Friday, May 16, will mean that much more.
“We really need to keep our focus. We can’t slack off and then expect to do well against Sprague if we don’t take McKay and North Salem seriously earlier this week,” said Celt Megan Ulrey.
Fielding errors led to two of West’s four runs in opening innings. The Titans were ahead 4-0 before a Kimi Ito double scored Kinsey McNaught in the bottom of the third inning. West responded with another pair of runs in the top of the fourth and took a 6-1 lead.
In the bottom of the frame, McNaught found a hole in center field and plated Sarah Jensen and Ulrey. In the bottom of the fifth, senior Dani Saunders scored on an Ulrey single. Ulrey scored on a double by freshman Nicole Duran to close the gap to 6-5.
“What helped is that we stayed together as a team even when we were down. When the other team was quiet, we kept our energy up,” said Celt senior Sarah Jensen.
Ulrey made it to second on a West Salem error in the seventh inning, but she ended the game stranded after a fly out.
“Every game we’ve had with them this year has been the same score,” said Ulrey. “We won the first one and they took the next two.”
McNaught went 2 for 3 on the day with a triple, a run scored and two RBIs. Ulrey went 2 for 4 with a RBI and two runs scored. McNary outhit West 13-12.
Prior to the West Salem game, the Celts chalked up their third loss to a near-perfect South Salem High School team Monday, May 4. The Saxons (11-1 in league, 19-1 overall) got things started with a two-run first inning and had a 6-0 lead before the Celts got on the board in the fourth.
Kiana Villarreal and Ulrey scored on an error by the Saxon shortstop fielding a single by Hannah Carr. South was up 11-2 in the top of the sixth when Ulrey homered scoring Villarreal.
One sign of the Keizer team’s progress was in getting more hits in each successive game against Saxon pitcher Katie Donovan.
“The day before we worked really hard on our hitting. Our approach in the box was different and we had a plan each time up to bat. The struggle was we didn’t show up defensively,” Ulrey said.
The Lady Celts had runners on first and third in the top of the seventh, but the Saxon defense stepped up and got two outs ending the game.
Villareal went 2 for 3 in the game with two runs scored.