Eighth inning grounder beats Valley Catholic 4-3

by: Photo By Brian Liebenstein - Catcher Meghan Smith (right) celebrates Madras High's April 25 Tri-Valley League softball win with pitcher Verna Mitchell. A freshman, Mitchell drove in Helen Maldanado in the bottom of the eighth to beat Valley Catholic 4-3.

Sports Editor
   Verna Mitchell's eighth-inning, two-out ground single that eluded the Valley Catholic pitcher and shortstop Friday at Madras plated Helen Maldonado with the winning run in Madras High's first Tri-Valley league softball win of the season.
   Maldonado, running from second at the clang of Mitchell's bat, scored the winning run in a 4- 3 victory that improved Madras to 1-5 in Tri-Valley League play.
   If weather allowed, Madras closed up the first portion of the round-robin Tri-Valley schedule by visiting Wilsonville Tuesday and is embarking on the second-round battles with its seven league foes by hosting Gladstone Friday.
   In its April 25 win, Madras had to rally from behind twice.
   It surrendered two runs in the first inning. Mitchell seemed to have worked her way out of a spot after an infield single and a walk. A strike out and a sacrifice that could only get the runners to second and third had Valley Catholic down to its last out with the fifth hitter up. But, a looped fly to right got away from a running effort to catch it by Madras's defense, scoring both runs.
   Mitchell came back to start the Madras scoring in the bottom of the first inning when she out ran the throw on her grounder to shortstop near the edge of the outfield. After moving up to second on a wild pitch, Mitchell advanced to third when Christina Barnes laid down a sacrifice bunt too effective to leave Valley Catholic any option but to throw her out at first.
   Catcher Meghan Smith, who played a large role in the win with strong defense besides timely contact throughout the game, then came up with a bunt to a spot that both let Mitchell score and got her to first. But the chance to tie the game went wonting on a pair of strikeouts.
   Settling down on the mound, Mitchell coerced a couple of weak grounders to Barnes at second as part of an easy second that had one Valley Catholic runner stranded.
   Rylee Sweeney reached to lead off the bottom of the second then worked her way round on plays similar to those scoring Mitchell, but with Tara Prow pushing her to third. That bunt came ahead of a ground ball to the pitcher which Prow got far enough off third on to dash home and slide safely in went the pitcher threw to first but the return throw from first was barely late.
   A walk ahead of one of the few Valley Catholic hits gave the Valiants their second lead of the day.
   Despite creating opportunities more than once, especially in the sixth, when it loaded the bases only to have hard-hit grounder by Prow turn into a double play, Madras had to wait until the seventh to tie the game.
   "We probably should have talked it over and had Tara hit a suicide squeeze bunt to try to tie it. I was busy keeping score and I want the younger coaches to get used to calling the game," noted Madras head coach Dick Souers.
   He credited the Buffs with "hanging in there," until their opportunity finally presented itself.
   Mitchell fouled off a couple pitches in the seventh before finding one she could hook down the left field line. She turned that into a lead-off triple. Unfortunately, for Madras, two outs later she was still there. That was when Kassie Fox nearly ended the game by blasting it past the left fielder again.
   Though unable to score Fox to win in the seventh, Madras had forced the game into extra frames under clouds which wound up lightly sprinkling the field with a combination of hail pellets and snow.
   Getting through the top of the eighth, without damage, Mitchell was waiting for her chance in the eighth. She got it after Maldonado out-raced an infielder's throw then moved to second when Prow was walked. After a second out, Mitchell made the most of her chance to end the game.
   Friday's win was in marked contrast to a Wednesday loss by Madras in which it lost to The Dalles, 10-0. Extra base hits and advancing extra bases on some fielding mistakes by the Buffs let The Dalles get ahead early, but Madras was still only behind 7-0 headed into the fifth. Its pitcher anchored The Dalles by tossing a one-hitter at the Buffs.
   In beating Valley Catholic, Madras beat a team that had earlier beaten Estacada, 3-2, and barely lost to La Salle, 2-1. Three added runs in each of their encounters with Estacada and La Salle would have the Buffs headed to Wilsonville at 3-3 in the league instead of 1-5.
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