Softball season ends semis sweet for Celtics

A McNary batting helmet sits on the field at Tigard High School. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)

Just one bad inning is all it can take sometimes. 

And when playing the No. 1 team in the state, one bad inning can write the story.

For No. 4 McNary softball, a four-run third inning for Tigard was too much to overcome in an eventual 6-3 loss in the 6A playoffs semifinals on Tuesday.

The bottom of the third started off well for McNary. With the game tied 1-1, starting pitcher Lacey Vasas struck the first two batters out. 

And then things began to unravel.

After Ella Dardis singled for Tigard, McNary head coach Kelly Parsell called out to her infield, reminding second baseman Ali Martinez she had to cover first on a slow grounder.

It was almost like Parsell was psychic.

Two pitches later, Nozomi Akin hit a slow roller up the first baseline and sped out of the box. Martinez was unable to get to first in time for the throw from first baseman Hannah Ebner.

“It’s a tough play,” Parsell said. “Turf’s a little bit different than dirt, gets to you a little bit slower when it’s hit on the ground. I think if we were to get that play again we’d know we have to play it a little bit faster. But they caught us off guard.”

With runners on first and second, Karen Spadafora hit a fly ball to center field that Aspynn Westby misread, and brought in a run to make it 2-1.

After an intentional walk to Kani Korok who had homered earlier in the game, Hailey White came through with a bases clearing double for Tigard when three McNary fielders converged on the ball but couldn’t make the play.

It was a battle between White and Vasas. White fouled off six straight two-strike pitches before doubling the twelfth pitch of the at-bat. 

One of those fouls was a pop up that Vasas had a chance to catch, but the ball fell.

“Any time there’s two or more people going for a ball in the air it’s a little bit risky,” Parsell said. “Especially when there’s a catcher with all their gear and a pitcher that we kind of rely on is involved it gets scary and I think they both kind of felt that.”

Parsell echoed the same sentiment on the ball White hit in the outfield, saying she knows those players can make that play. 

And in Parsell’s opinion, it is the lack of play from the last two seasons that really led to Tuesday’s results, recognizing that most of the team has not played in high stakes, championship level games yet.

“In these things, any little mistake, even if it’s not an error but something that we could have given more effort on it comes back to hurt and maybe even haunt you for a while,” Parsell said. “I know they’re going to use that going forward.”

McNary had defeated Tigard in the only meeting earlier this season, a 2-0 win on April 1 at Tigard. 

And Parsell felt they looked better Tuesday than they did in that game, praising their focus and work.

“If that one inning goes a different way, that’s a whole different ball game,” Parsell said. 

It wasn’t all bad news for the Celtics. Following the game, Athletic Director Scott Gragg addressed the team, and announced that Parsell is nominated for coach of the year at the Salem-Keizer High School Sports Boosters Club’s Beacon Awards. 

It was news for the team and their rookie head coach.

“I’ve always thought from the player aspect that coach of the year is solely a reflection of the players,” Parsell said. “And these players have reflected the coaching staff really well.”

Head coach Kelly Parsell sits and addresses the team following their loss to Tigard in the semifinals of the 6A playoffs on Tuesday, May 31, at Tigard. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)

Ali Martinez connects for a home run in the 6A semifinals against Tigard on Tuesday, May 31, at Tigard. Martinez had four home runs in three postseason games.