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Gaston girls take a run at state title

Softball team cranks up, lead pitcher snapping back from injury

The Gaston softball team had little trouble dismantling Northwest League competition this season, clinching the league title with a 14-1 record (17-5 overall).

But, playing tune up games in preparation for the Class 2A/1A state playoffs last week, the Lady Greyhounds were faced with much tougher competition. At first Gaston faltered, dropping to Perrydale 7-1 last Friday and Clatskanie 5-3 on Saturday.

'We suffered some big losses,' Gaston coach Wally Lira said. 'We just weren't ready.'

Before the Hounds' second game on Saturday against Knappa, Lira had a long talk with his team.

'We've got to get our bats going,' Lira told the girls. 'We've got to dedicate each hit and each play to somebody that is dear to your heart and make something happen.'

That is just what Gaston did, blowing out Knappa 14-1.

'We just flat out played some good ball,' Lira said. 'Our level of play is really stepping up playing against these ranked teams. There's a big difference and a whole different outlook with these girls.'

The fifth-seeded Greyhounds will have their hands full in their first round playoff game today, though, when they will have a rematch against fourth-seeded Perrydale (18-4).

The good news for Gaston is that they will once again be able to call on junior pitcher Brielle Matteson. At the beginning of the season, Matteson was slated to be the Hounds' ace. Then, she broke her ankle in the first game of the season. Matteson is healthy again and pitched a gem against Knappa.

'It's just nice to have Brielle back,' Lira said. 'That made a big difference because it changes the pace of the game.'

Against Perrydale, Lira is still planning on starting freshman pitcher Haylie Davis, who has carried the Hounds since Matteson went down. Lira will be keeping a close eye on Davis, though, trying to figure out the best time to bring in Matteson.

'It's going to take some really key coaching as far as my part,' Lira says. 'Haylie is pretty strong for three or four innings. And I've got to know when her speed is up and down and when she's not hitting her spots. And then I can bring in Brielle who is a fast pitcher with good movement on the ball. It's a different look.'

The addition of Matteson has everyone on the Gaston team excited, including Davis.

'Haylie, at first, wasn't too sure what was going to happen,' Lira said. 'But I let her know, 'You're still my No. 1 pitcher. We're going to roll with you every time. Brielle is just going to come in until she gets her legs back.' Everybody is excited to have her back.'

With two quality pitchers, Lira likes his team's chances at making a run at a state championship.

'We've got a decent shot at it,' Lira said. 'Everyone's confidence level is going up, which is nice to see.'