Softball: Meghan Cichoke hits an inside-the-park home run in Tualatin's 7-1 victory
by: DAN BROOD, SUPER SLIDE — Tualatin High School junior Kirstie Lerum (left) slides home safely for a run during the Timberwolves’ win over Newberg on Friday. Lerum scored a pair of runs in Tuaaltin’s 7-1 victory.

TUALATIN - Youth was served.

And, at least partly because of that, the Tualatin softball team picked up a key victory.

With freshman pitcher Mary Grace Bywater turning in an impressive, complete-game performance, and with sophomore Meghan Cichoke smacking an inside-the-park home run, the Timberwolves rolled to a 7-1 win over Newberg in a Pacific Conference game played Friday at Tualatin High School.

'The young girls are doing a good job,' Tualatin coach Dan Roisom said after the victory. 'All of the girls are working hard in practice and they're out there playing fearlessly.'

With the win, Tualatin improved to 5-3 in Pacific Conference play (8-9 overall) at that point.

'Every game is a battle,' Cichoke said. 'Everyone did well out there. We worked as a team.'

Newberg, which fell to 0-9 in league play with the setback, struck first in Friday's game. Tiger leadoff hitter Sarah Nielsen started the game with a triple to center field. The next batter, Megan Chesback, blooped a single to left-center, driving in Nielsen to give Newberg a quick 1-0 lead.

But the Tigers would get only one more hit off of Bywater the rest of the way.

'I didn't expect to do that well,' Bywater said. 'After the triple, I tried to keep it going. I just wanted to keep it simple and throw strikes.'

The Timberwolves answered back in a big way in their half of the first inning. Senior Jordan Skinner singled to left to lead off the frame. Cichoke followed with her home run, sprinting around the bases following her laser shot down the left-field line.

'I saw it off the bat, but I didn't really know where it was going,' Cichoke said of the hit. 'I didn't know I was going to score until I was about halfway down the third base line. It felt amazing. I've never done that before - it doesn't happen very often.'

Tualatin added another run in the second inning. Junior Kirstie Lerum drew a walk to lead off the inning. She stole second base and then moved to third on a groundout by junior Amanda Richmond. Lerum then scored on a bunt by junior Camille Kennedy to give the Wolves a 3-1 lead.

The Wolves, using their speed, tacked on another run in the bottom of the third. Senior Janelle Cromie drew a two-out walk to get things going. Sophomore pinch runner Erin Doering stole second and then she stole third and ended up scoring, upping the margin to 4-1, on a Newberg throwing error on the play.

Tualatin then all but put the game away by scoring three more runs in the fourth inning. Senior Emily Tietje led off the frame with a double to right-center field. Lerum then reached first base on an error. Richmond followed that up with an RBI single to center, driving in Tiejte to make the score 5-1.

One out later, Lerum scored on a passed ball to up the lead to 6-1. Richmond would score on a sacrifice fly by Skinner to wrap up the scoring in the Wolves' 7-1 victory.

Tualatin had six base hits in the win. Skinner had two of those hits while Tiejte, Lerum, Cichoke and Richmond added one hit apiece. Bywater, in getting the complete-game pitching victory, gave up one run on three hits while striking out eight and walking one.

'Suzanna (Espinoza) has been sick, so we decided to give MG (Bywater) a chance,' Roisom said.

Prior to the win over Newberg, Tualatin fell 8-1 to Canby in a game played last Thursday at Tualatin High School. On Monday, the Wolves fell 5-0 at home to league-leading McMinnville.

Tualatin was scheduled to play at Forest Grove in a league game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.

The Wolves, who are in a heated battle to get one of the league's four state playoff berths, face some crucial games in the near future.

Today (Thursday), Tualatin plays rival Tigard in a 5 p.m. game at Tigard High School.

The Wolves, on Friday, travel to Canby for a 5 p.m. contest. Tualatin and Tigard will play again Monday at 5 p.m. at Tualatin High School.

'We're trying to figure out a way to get eight or nine wins to get into the playoffs,' Roisom said.

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