McNary takes over top spot in conference standings

Faith Danner went six innings and gave up just on run on six hits, leading McNary to the 11-1 victory over West Salem (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

With a chance to solidify themselves at the top of the league, the McNary softball squad proved that they are indeed the team to beat in the Mountain Valley Conference.

The Celtics had a double-digit run total in their sixth consecutive game as they pulled off the season sweep against West Salem, defeating the Titans 11-1 in six innings via run rule, and taking sole possession of first place in the MVC.

“They just keep raising their level of play. Now, the challenge is to keep it going,” McNary head coach Kevin Wise said. 

While it was business as usual for the McNary offense, the Celtics also got a great performance in the circle from Faith Danner — who pitched one of her best games of the season against the Titans.

The senior right-hander gave up just one run on six hits in six innings of work as she looked to be in complete command for the majority of the contest. 

“She came out and she was dealing,” Wise said. “I don’t think she missed on any pitches I called all game. It was a dominant performance.

A single by Abbi Covalt — who went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs — and a one-out double off the right field wall from Taylor Ebbs started the Celtics threat in the bottom of the first. 

Covalt would come in to score after Danner grounded to shortstop as McNary went on top 1-0.

After the two teams traded runs in the second frame, McNary broke the game wide open in the bottom of the third.

Covalt led off the inning with a double to left field. With first base empty, West Salem head coach Ty Nicholson elected to issue an intentional walk to Ebbs — who is hitting over .600 this season — to face Danner and to keep the double play in-tact.

When she walked up to the dish, Danner was intent on making the Titans pay for the free pass to Ebbs.

On the first pitch she saw, Danner hit a laser to the gap in left center field that one-hopped off the wall. Both runners scored on the play and Danner wound up on second with a double, putting the Celtics on top 4-1. 

“Having someone get (intentionally) walked in front of me definitely gets me fired up to get a good hit,” Danner said. “You usually (intentionally) walk someone to a weaker hitter, so I wanted to show that they shouldn’t be walking (Ebbs) to get to me.”

But McNary wasn’t done there.

Xena Lane, who was a courtesy runner for Danner, scored moments later on a passed ball and wild pitch. Shaylee Cluster and Kayelee Schwab followed by both reaching base via walk. Then, a sharply hit ball by Hannah Ebner was booted by West Salem second baseman Maison Searle and trickled into the outfield. The error allowed Cluster and Schwab to score as the Celtics extended their lead to 7-1. 

“We just never let up,” Covalt said. “Being selective in our at-bats and putting good swings on good pitches put us ahead.”

West Salem tried to respond in the top of the fourth as they loaded up the bases with a trio of singles, but Danner got out of the inning by forcing Allayna Broadway to fly out to center field, which appeared to take the wind out of the Titans sails. 

Danner came back in the bottom half of the frame with another RBI-hit, giving her team the 8-1 advantage. She finished the contest with three hits and four RBIs. 

Two more came across in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a hard-hit single from Covalt. The Celtics then ended the game early in the following frame when Schwab hit a ground ball to first base with Cluster stationed at third.

West Salem first baseman Talia Perez fielded the ball and got the out at first, but her throw to try and get Cluster at home was late.