Wins over Grant and Tualatin advance Clackamas to the quarterfinals

The fifth-ranked Clackamas Cavaliers last week continued on track for one of the best seasons in school history, knocking off Grant 10-3 and Tualatin 3-0 in the first two rounds of the Class 6A high school softball playoffs.

The pair of wins put the Cavaliers at 23-4 on the season heading into last Friday's quarterfinal game with 13th-ranked Aloha.

With a win in the May 25 quarterfinals, the Cavaliers would advance to a state softball semifinal for only the second time in school history. The last semifinal appearance was in 2000, when the Cavaliers went 23-6, losing to eventual state champion North Eugene 1-0 in the semifinals.

'Everybody's hitting right now,' said Clackamas senior second baseman Sarah Bigej.

'It helps a lot [to know that everyone in the lineup can hit the ball],' said Clackamas pitcher Sam Gutwig. 'If we get behind, I have a lot of faith in my teammates that they're going to get those runs back.'

'June 2, [the state final at] OSU. That's our goal,' said senior co-captain Jen Behunin.

'We've got a good luck banner for the playoffs, and we hit it every time out [of the dugout],' said Gutwig. 'It says 'One pitch, one out at a time, one game at a time. Execution! Desire! Teamwork!''

The Three Rivers League champion Cavaliers, whose May 23 second-round win over Tualatin was their 11th win in a row, haven't needed a lot of luck this season. Gutwig sports a 21-4 record and she's been a part of 10 shutouts. And the Cavaliers have been hitting up a storm, with a season team batting average of .328 and 24 home runs.

Bigej, the TRL 'Player of the Year,' has been a big part of the Cavalier success story. She hit .551 in league, while playing error-free ball at second base. And she leads the Cavaliers in home runs, with seven.

Bigej hit home runs against both Grant and Tualatin.

Bigej's solo home run in the third inning of the 3-0 win over Tualatin gained the Cavaliers an early 1-0 lead.

Her two-run home run in the Grant game put Clackamas up 9-2 at the end of three innings. She went 4-for-4 at the plate off of Grant pitcher Carlee Emerson.

The Tualatin game was a dogfight, with each team getting five hits.

Clackamas scored its second run in the fourth inning on a bunt single by Behunin, an error, a sacrifice bunt by Missy Noble and a run-scoring infield single by freshman Sammie Haehlen.

Behunin led off the sixth with a walk, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Gutwig, and scored on a double by Noble.

Gutwig had five strikeouts and she walked two batters.

Tualatin pitcher Emily Sorem struck the Cavaliers out 12 times and issued two free passes.

Tualatin's biggest scoring threat came in the third, when the Timberwolves attempted two consecutive suicide squeeze bunts with runners on second and third and no outs. Clackamas catcher Vanessa Oakden hustled to catch two foul pop ups near the backstop on both attempts, for two outs. Clackamas junior left fielder Allie Anderegg then flagged down a fly ball to end the inning with no damage done.

The Cavaliers took hitting practice off of Grant's Emerson, hammering the ball for no fewer than 14 hits.

Oakden joined Bigej (4-for-4, home run) in swinging a big stick, going 3-for-4, with a solo home run, two ground-rule doubles and two RBI. It was Oakden's fifth home run of the season.

Noble went 3-for-4, and Mariah Scholes was 2-for-4, with two RBI.

The Cavaliers took charge of the game in the first inning, scoring four runs on base hits by Bigej, Gutwig, Noble and Scholes, and two Grant errors.

Bigej singled and scored on an Oakden double in the second frame.

And the Cavaliers added four runs in the third on singles by Noble and Scholes, a two-run double by McKenzie Giancola, and Bigej's two-run home run.

Oakden added her solo shot in the fifth to round out the scoring.

Gutwig pitched a complete game, striking out eight, walking two, and giving up five hits.

Bigej came up with a big defensive play in the top of the seventh when the Generals loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. The allstar second baseman collected a line drive and doubled the runner off first to end the game.

With a win in last Friday's quarterfinal with Aloha, the Cavaliers would meet top-ranked North Medford (26-1, 12-0) or ninth-ranked Forest Grove (21-7, 11-3) in the May 29 semifinals. Heading into the quarterfinals the Black Tornado was riding a 21-game win string, their only loss in a March 26 game with Southridge.

The state championship game is scheduled Saturday at Oregon State University's softball complex. If the Cavaliers make it, they'll be the first softball team from their school ever to play in a state final.

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