Celts crowned conference champs

The McNary softball team flashes the #1 sign after defeating Bend 12-2 on Saturday, May 11. The Celtics clinched the Mountain Valley Conference title with a 13-1 record in league play (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The McNary softball team knew they had already clinched the Mountain Valley Conference title in their previous game before they took the field against Bend on Saturday, May 11.

But putting an exclamation point on the conference season on senior night was still a sweet moment for the Lady Celts.

Faith Danner pitched six innings and gave up just seven hits and one earned run to along with her 3-for-4 day at the dish, propelling McNary to the 12-2 run-rule victory against Bend.

“I knew this team was capable to accomplish what they just did,” McNary head coach Kevin Wise said. 

“I love this group. It all comes down to their work ethic and their willingness to just fight over and over again.”

Coming into the season Danner, who is one of only two seniors on the team, knew that she had to step up both on the field and in a leadership role for a roster that has four sophomores and three freshmen. But so far, Danner has loved playing with a team that is young and hungry. 

“It’s be really awesome to play with this group,” Danner said. “We have all been really supportive of each other. I’m going to miss them when the season is over.”

McNary finishes MVC play with a 13-1 record and ended the regular season on a 12-game win streak. They also put up double-digit run totals in all but one of their league contests.

Even though they won via mercy-rule, the Celtics still had to deal with some adversity in this game.

McNary held a 1-0 lead when they took the field in the top of the second inning thanks to an RBI-single from Taylor Ebbs in the bottom of the first.

Bend’s Maya Eliff hit a hard ground ball to Ebbs at shortstop to begin the second frame. Ebbs put herself in perfect position to make the play, but the ball took a bad hop and hit her square in the face.

After being tended to for more than 10 minutes, Ebbs had to be escorted off the field with a fractured nose. 

It was difficult for the rest of the McNary squad to see their teammate and star slugger in so much pain. But like they have for much of the season, the Celtics found a way to be resilient. 

“That sucked to watch,” Danner said. “But we believed in each other and we all wanted to win for Taylor.” 

Bend tied the game with a run in the top of the second. McNary, however, responded by producing a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame. 

Hannah Ebner laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Shaylee Cluster and Kayelee Schwab into scoring position after they were both issued free passes.

Kamryn Miller brought in Cluster to score with a sharp single between third base and shortstop on the next at-bat. Alexa Cepeda then followed with a sacrifice fly to left field, putting McNary up 3-1. 

Bend pitcher Lena Zahniser was able to hold McNary without a run in the third and fourth innings. The Lava Bears even cut the deficit to one in the top of the fourth. But the Celtics offense began to break out in the bottom of the fifth. 

Danner and Kate Ronning began the McNary threat with back-to-back one-out singles, which was followed by an RBI-double to center field by Cluster. 

Schwab capped off the inning with a two-run single up the middle to extend McNary’s lead to 6-2.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Celtics continued to pour it on. 

McNary got six runs on five hits in the inning as they ended the game early once they gained a 10-run lead.

It is the second time in three years that the Celtics have been crowned league champions. But that didn’t make the accomplishment any less enjoyable.

“It honestly feels so good to win league. We have all just gelled really well together,” Ronning said. 

The Celtics will host their first round playoff game on Monday, May 20. The opponent has still been undetermined. But one thing is for sure; this team has loftier goals and expectations that go beyond just winning a conference title. 

“We want to win state. That is the ultimate goal. But we mainly just want to go out there and just play our best for each other,” Danner said. 

Wise also added: “I think we could make a good run in the playoffs. We have the hitting, the speed and the pitching.”

“They just have a lot of faith and trust in each other.”