Wolves push top team to the limit
Softball: Top-ranked South Salem scores late to get a 1-0 win
TUALATIN - One run.
That's it. That's all that separated the Tualatin High School softball team from, well, No. 1.
The Timberwolves, getting strong pitching from senior MG Bywater and clutch play on defense, battled South Salem - which entered the game as the No. 1 team in the OSAA power rankings - to a scoreless deadlock for more than five innings.
But the Saxons, getting a run in the top of the sixth inning, were able to get a 1-0 victory in the non-league game played Monday at Tualatin High School.
'Now we know that we can play with anyone,' Tualatin senior shortstop Shelby Burke said after the game. 'Our hitting could have been better, but I thought we did pretty well. I'd really like a rematch.'
'I thought we shook off the first home game jitters and played pretty well,' Bywater said.
South Salem improved to 5-1 on the season with the victory. Tualatin moved to 3-2 on the season with the hard-fought loss to the top-ranked team.
'We were happy to play No. 1. I'd love to play them again,' first-year Tualatin coach Jenna Wilson said. 'I felt good about the outcome, minus the loss.'
The Saxons quickly threatened in the top of the first inning of Monday's contest. Kaley Stauff drew a leadoff walk and Kelsie Gardner followed with a slap single. A wild pitch put runners on second and third with no outs. But Bywater and the Wolves got out of the jam.
South Salem's Lauran Bliss hit a grounder to Burke, who looked Stauff back to third before throwing to first for the initial out of the inning. Bywater then struck out Lauren Donovan and she got Kaitlin Livingston to ground out to Burke to get out of the frame unscathed.
From there, Bywater and South Salem's Corrie Phillips locked up in a pitchers' duel.
Tualatin got its first hit of the game in the bottom of the third inning, when sophomore Britta Hall came up with a two-out infield single. But she was left stranded.
The Wolves had their biggest scoring threat of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Burke got things going with a one-out line-drive single to left field. Then, following a fielder's choice grounder by junior Taryn O'Neill, Bywater singled to left to put runners on first and second with two outs. But South Salem got out of the jam with an inning-ending groundout.
Stauff led off the top of the sixth with a single to right, but she was thrown out by Tualatin junior right fielder Morgan Windhorn trying to stretch the hit into a double. Gardner followed with a bunt single and she moved to second with two outs in the inning when Donovan was hit by a pitch.
Livingston then singled to center, driving in Gardner with what turned out to be the game's only run.
The Saxons also threatened in the top of the seventh, getting a leadoff double by sophomore Raina Reece. But Tualatin sophomore third baseman Maddie Powelson ended the threat when she snagged a hard line drive off the bat of Stauff and turned it into an inning-ending double play.
Tualatin wasn't able to threaten in the final two frames against South Salem freshman pitcher Katie Donovan, who struck out the side in both innings, wrapping up the 1-0 win for the Saxons.
'It could have been better, but I thought we did a good job,' Wilson said. 'Our girls have been working real hard and they're getting things done.'
Bywater, in seven innings of pitching duties, gave up six hits while striking out five and walking one.
'I just try to hit my spots,' she said. 'I know I have great defense behind me.'
Hall, Burke and Bywater all had singles for the Wolves in the contest. Tualatin played strong on defense in the game, committing just one error while coming up with clutch plays, one of which being junior catcher Emilee Symonds throwing out South Salem's Kelly Burdick on a stolen-base attempt.
Tualatin's scheduled game at Aloha on Tuesday was postponed due to rain. The Wolves were slated to play at Gresham on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.
Tualatin will be back in action Friday when it hosts Centennial in a non-league game starting at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Wolves play at Aloha at noon.