McNary bounces back with home victory over Sunset

McNary freshman Kaylee Schwab rounds third and heads for home in the Celtics 4-3 win over Sunset (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

After suffering their first loss of the season to Grants Pass in the previous game, the McNary softball team bounced back on Monday night with a 4-3 victory over Sunset.

Faith Danner went the distance in the circle for the fourth time this season, pitching seven innings and surrendering just one earned run on seven hits.

Shortstop Taylor Ebbs led the McNary offense by going 3-for-3 at the dish with an RBI and a run scored.

The Celtics struck in the opening frame as Alexa Cepeda singled to left field to leadoff the inning. After Abbi Covalt reached on an error in the following at-bat, Ebbs knocked an RBI-single into center field to put McNary on top 1-0.

“It’s really important for us to score early,” Ebbs said. “If we didn’t do that, (Danner) wouldn’t be pitching as well as she is.”

It looked like the Celtics had potential for a big inning with a run already across and two runners on base with nobody out. But Sunset pitcher Grace Kimball retired the next three batters to get out of the jam.

Back-to-back infield singles by Ebbs and Kate Ronning put the Celtics back in business in the bottom of third. After a double steal that allowed both runners to get into scoring position, an RBI-groundout to second base by Hannah Ebner brought Ebbs in from third and extended McNary’s lead to 2-0.

In Danner’s first three innings of work, Sunset’s only baserunner reached via error. But the senior right-hander got into some trouble in the top of the fourth due to another defensive miscue.

After an error by Ebner at first base to start the frame, Danner retired the next two batters. Sunset, however, got their first hit of the game from Kate Fogle, who laced a single into right field to score Kimball from second and cut the McNary lead to 2-1.

The Apollos scored another unearned run in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 2-2.

However, the resilient Celtics were ready to respond in the bottom half of the frame.

Ebbs started the inning off with a single to center field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After getting Ronning to fly out, Kimball issued free passes to the next two hitters, which loaded up the bases. 

Danner, who was the following batter, hit a sharp ground ball to the right side that ended up hitting Ebner in the leg as she tried to advance to second from first, which caused the umpire to rule the play dead and call Ebner out for interference. 

With two outs and the bags packed, the eight hitter Shaylee Cluster stepped to the plate. With 1-1 count, Cluster hit a sharp ground ball to second base. Sunset second baseman Maddy Terhune was in position to make the play, but the ball glanced off her leg and trickled into the outfield. 

Two runs scored on the fielding error as McNary regained the lead at 4-2.

“Every kid on this team can get up there and put the ball in play,” McNary head coach Kevin Wise said. “That’s a good feeling as a coach, to know that it doesn’t matter who’s up. They’re going to hit the ball.”

“Our young kids aren’t intimidated.”

Sunset got a run back in the top of the sixth when Mikaela Byrnes hit a solo homer to center field to begin the frame. 

With it being a one-run ballgame, Danner was forced to buckle down to get the final six outs.

Both the tying and go-ahead runs reached base in the sixth and seventh innings, but Danner found a way to get herself out of trouble in both instances to seal the win for the Celtics.

“Faith is a pitcher that doesn’t show emotion, which is a great thing,” Wise said. “No matter what, she comes back and does what she needs to do on the next pitch.”