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Shuffled Culver softball lineup earns big victory

A shuffled Culver defense didn't shuffle up the standings in the 2A/1A Special District softball race completely.
   The Bulldogs moved several players, but still earned a key home victory against Blanchet. The win keeps Culver in third place and sweeps the season series against the Cavaliers.
   The Bulldogs were unable to sweep the series against Salem Academy however. The Crusaders gained a victory Saturday to keep their third-place hopes alive, trailing Culver by just one game.
   For the Bulldogs, an injury to first baseman Evangeline Hood (pinched nerve) was one of several moves. It meant left fielder Amanda Treadway moved to first, Delta Symons to left from right and reserve Dani Clugston into right. The Bulldogs have a completely new outfield with Kymber Wofford in center, swapping with Maria Ruiz who returns to shortstop, where she played last season.
   "Evangeline is likely out for the season," Culver coach Kevin Urbach said. "So we had to move players around. Then, putting Maria at short gives us more experience."
   That revamped team has three games left in the regular season. The Bulldogs travel to Western Mennonite on Thursday and then host Delphian on Monday in the final home game of the regular season. The final Special District 3 game is Thursday, May 8, at Kennedy.
   Culver 3, Blanchet 1: The revamped defense did its job against a hot Cavalier squad. Blanchet had won four of its past five games going into Thursday's postponed contest.
   The Cavaliers opted not to travel over the Cascades in the winter-like conditions on Tuesday, April 22. The roads were better on Thursday, and so was the Bulldog defense.
   The Cavaliers managed just one unearned run in the sixth off starter Sarah O'Gorman who revamped her pitching style since her last outing five days earlier (a nine-inning loss at Santiam).
   "I changed my delivery to help improve my accuracy and my speed," O'Gorman said. "It worked, especially when I was able to see what I was doing on (video) tape."
   O'Gorman had just one walk while striking out one Blanchet hitter and allowing just three hits.
   "I had people in new positions behind me and I was using a new delivery. As the game went along, I was thinking 'yes, I can do this,'" O'Gorman said.
   She had a pair of key plays from Clugston to close out the game. The new right fielder, a softball rookie, had catches for the first and third outs in the seventh. The sophomore tumbled over after catching the first out.
   "I knew I had it, but I wasn't going to let go," said Clugston who filled in at second and the outfield earlier this season. "Once I caught the first one, it made me feel better when the ball came to me for the third out."
   A Blanchet error played a big part in Culver owning the lead. In the fourth, Ruiz led off with a single and a grounder by O'Gorman was misplayed, putting Bulldogs on second and third. Kayley Cook followed with a run-scoring double with a Culver courtesy runner (for O'Gorman) thrown out at third on the play. Wofford then singled to score Cook and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
   Salem Academy 3, Culver 1: Extra innings weren't needed this time. Instead, the Crusaders made three runs in the opening three innings hold up.
   The hosts scored two runs in the third, both unearned on a pair of errors.
   "That made a big difference," Urbach said. "Instead of trying to score one run, we had to score three."
   The Bulldogs scored a run in the fourth with consecutive singles by Alysha Urbach, Ruiz and O'Gorman. Culver also struck out nine times.
   O'Gorman allowed just five hits and three walks while striking out four.