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Culver softball cut down

North Douglas takes semifinal, 5-0, with five runs in 7th

by: Photo By Brian Liebenstein - Culver catcher Marissa Hagman tries to cut off a North Douglas run in the seventh inning of the 2A semifinal game between the teams. The ball, coming from the left, was just late.


Sports Editor
   
   North Douglas High terminated Culver High's adventure in Oregon's 2A-1A softball tournament with a five-run seventh inning which earned it a 5-0 win June 3 in Culver.
   Behind Bree Miller's pitching, Culver had shut out North Douglas for six innings and was only three outs away from making sure the Les Schwab Tires - U.S. Bank Oregon School Activities Association tournament game needed no fewer than seven innings to decide.
   But the Bulldogs bobbled two chances at outs in North Douglas's seventh inning. Combined with a walk and two singles, Culver's costly miscues left North Douglas, from Drain, ahead 3-0 with only one out when the inning could have been over. A timely triple to the fence in left-center field in Culver completed North Douglas's run to its win.
   The scoreless duel between pitchers Bree Miller of Culver and Katie Plumb of North Douglas took some strong defense by both teams to maintain until that seventh-inning uprising by North Douglas. Winning earned North Douglas a finals berth against Dayton, which beat Monroe in the other semifinal.
   The Big Fir League champs, North Douglas, kept Culver contained behind Plumb, a senior who was named all-state pitcher in 2002. She struck out at least one of the Bulldogs in each of the first five innings. Good defense helped.
   Culver had runners reach base in a couple other innings but advanced its one runner who reached second, until the final inning, in the third. That was when senior Marissa Hagman made the most of one of only two walks Plumb issued and advanced to second on a fielder's choice.
   After attacking Plumb's offerings aggressively enough in the first inning to strike out swinging once and ground into the other two outs, on either side of a walk to Lanisha Goicoa -- some Culver hitters had troubles getting the bats off their shoulders in the middle innings.
   "We couldn't afford to take called third strikes, " Culver coach Jack Layton said after the game.
   "But," he added, "These girls should still be proud. There's nothing the matter with 24-5." The overall mark for the Bulldogs noted by Layton included a 17-3 mark in the league portion of its schedule, against other teams in the Columbia Basin Conference's West division.
   Culver's elimination began when Nicole Lusk reached base then advanced to third when a potential out on a bunt by Danni Davidson was whistled past first base.
   With runners at second and third a ground ball to third gave the Bulldogs another chance at the inning's first out. By the time the runner was held, however, North Douglas runner Christy Umbarger beat the throw across the diamond.
   With the bases loaded and no outs -- rather than one or two outs with a runner at third -- Miller, a sophomore, was in her biggest jam of the day. Though giving up runs in the Bulldogs' 7-3 win at Clatskanie in the first round of the state tournament, Miller had pitched 13 innings of shutout softball since.
   She walked in one run, but Miller struck out the next batter with a change of speed pitch that lured an early swing.
   North Douglas then scored on a grounder that could have also provided the final out of the inning. Instead it gave Plumb the at bat which she broke open the game with by doubling to the fence between left and center.
   Bill Millard, the North Douglas coach, admitted that his team "underestimated" Culver and was impressed that its defense didn't get nervous until the final inning. Miller's pitching was also tougher than they figured, Millard said.