Throughout the season, McNary softball was one of the highest scoring offenses in the state. Averaging just under nine runs per game, the No. 12 Lady Celts were the sixth highest scoring team per game in 6A softball.
And Monday’s OSAA state championship opening round game against No. 21 Forest Grove was much of the same in the eventual 12-7 win.
“These last few weeks of games, we’ve talked a lot about how important it is to score a lot because every team that we’ve played can just crush the ball,” McNary head coach Kelly Parsell said. “Today was that first day that it’s really clicked. They know they can hit, I would biasedly say the best hitting team in the state of Oregon when they come after the pitcher.”
And they came after Forest Grove starter Cali Davis from the start.
McNary jumped out to an 11-0 lead after three innings, and scored in each of the first four innings.
Perhaps it had to do with some of the adjustments made following the final regular season game, a 6-4 win in nine innings against Westview High School. Against Westview, McNary kept putting the ball in the air, ending up with 11 pop or fly outs.
The Lady Celts cut that down to six, and made use of their difficult infield by putting the ball on the ground.
“Defense is hard when it’s rolling on the ground, and we’ve got a tough infield to work off of,” Parsell said. “So the girls know that. And yeah, they came in focused and knowing that this is a really good hitting team and we got to score all that we can.”
Ali Martinez, the Central Valley Conference Player of the Year, was 3-for-4 for McNary with 3 RBIs, 2 runs scored and a home run in the second inning — as well as a diving stop on a line drive for the final out of the game.
The two-run shot was the ninth of the season for the junior, and her fifth postseason home run in two seasons, and Martinez said that the early lead makes it easier to produce at the plate later in the game.
“My second at-bat, knowing that we’re up by so much, I was like, ‘okay, now I can maybe try to swing a little harder,’” Martinez said.
Of the nine Lady Celts that came to bat, eight had hits, and eight knocked in runs.
McNary starting pitcher senior Lacey Vasas earned the win, going six innings, allowing eight hits and six runs, three earned. She gave up just two hits through the first three innings.
Freshman Natalie Macik earned the save in her first postseason appearance. She allowed two hits and one run in the seventh inning.
“It’s tough to switch pitchers, see something different and yeah, good to get Natalie some experience in the playoffs,” Parsell said. “It’s a different type of game.”
The Forest Grove offense was most alive in the fourth and sixth innings, scoring three in each, and had the chance for bigger innings, but left the bases loaded in the fourth.
Often times it can be just one inning getting out of hand that can turn a game.
“We have one snowball inning and sometimes you can do something about it, sometimes you can’t,” Parsell said. “Luckily today we scored 12 runs, so it’s okay. And that’s what we need to do. We need to give ourselves the cushion because seven innings is a lot and other teams are good.
Twice in the final week of the season McNary saw leads evaporate in the sixth inning.
But even with that recent history fresh in their minds, it didn’t lead to added anxiety on the field.
“If everything was easy we wouldn’t have anything to practice,” Martinez said. “So having that there, it’s like, okay, now we have something to focus on and get better at.”
They’ll have a day to practice for the next round and a trip to Sherwood High School on Wednesday.
It’s a team that Parsell and the Lady Celts are at least a little familiar with. McNary traveled to and defeated Sherwood 7-3 back on April 4.
“They can hit, just like everyone we play, they can hit,” Parsell said. “So it’s the same exact approach. We got to come out ready to go and knowing that they can always come back. So we just got to keep scoring every inning, every chance we get, we’ve got to capitalize.”
First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.