By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
The NW Vandals captured a state softball championship on their way to the Junior Olympics.
Playing in Medford, the Vandals defeated Bat Company 8-3 on July 8 to win the 14U title.
The Vandals had lost 2-1 to Bat Company earlier in the day. But since the Vandals were previously undefeated in the double elimination tournament, they got another shot at bringing home the championship.
“I think we came out a little flat in the first game and their pitcher was throwing really well,” said Vandals second baseman Abbi Covalt, a sophomore at McNary High School. “She had a good fastball and she was getting us out on changeups. They switched pitchers in the second game and I think we were just a little bit angry in the second one from losing. We wanted to come out with a different fire and leave no doubt that we wanted it more.”
The Vandals scored three runs in the first inning and three more in the second to jump out to a 6-1 lead.
Covalt was 2-for-4 with a run and RBI.
Reagan Davis was 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and scored two runs.
Mackenzie Scott went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and scored two runs.
“Balls just dropped,” assistant coach Jeff Covalt said. “We hit a lot of balls hard right at people in the first game. I think the second game those balls just got through.”
Kamden Combs pitched all seven innings of the championship game to earn the win.
Although they averaged more than 12 hits a game, the Vandals didn’t start the state tournament on fire.
Falling behind 5-2 in the first inning and then 9-4 after three, the Vandals had to score three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth to edge Sandy Thunder 11-9 on July 6.
“It was our first game of the tournament and I think we were just getting loose and ready for the weekend,” said Abbi, who was 3-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and scored two runs in the comeback. “It was stressful.”
Kami Gibson hit a walk-off two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Maison Searle was 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs.
The Vandals won their next two games 13-5 and 13-6.
They are one of 26 teams invited to the Junior Olympics on 23-28 in St. Louis.
“The first team we play has two girls committed D-I already,” coach Covalt said. “The competition will be really high. It would be great to see us just go out and play well. If we can go .500 there, that’s probably a pretty good day for our club. You’re playing some of the best teams in the country.”
Most of the team, which along with Covalt, Scott, Davis, Combs, Gibson and Searle, includes Payron Burnham, Kiani Nakamura, Carley Schlag, Bella Fleener, Jade Beaumont, Aliah Wilsey and Ruby Earhart, came together four years ago under the guidance of head coach Marie Scott.
The girls previously played with the Oregon Titans before blazing their own path this summer as the NW Vandals.
“It was just a good time for us to venture out,” coach Covalt said. “The Titans were great to us. The Titans are a great organization. They’re really good people. We just had an opportunity to kind of start our own thing and chart our own path. We had a really good team right now so we had a chance to play in some big tournaments. We had hoped we’d do well and have some buzz around the girls and it was a good opportunity for us to take that last step and do our own thing.”
The Vandals will hold tryouts for next season at South Salem High School on Aug. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. and Aug. 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to field 14A and 16A softball teams. The Vandals are also starting a baseball program.
For more information or to register online, go to nwvandals.com.