It takes two days and 13 innings, but South Salem beats Aloha 8-7
SALEM - Nearly 24 hours after the Aloha softball team's Class 6A semifinal game against South Salem started, Saxon junior Kaley Stauff finally ended it.
Stauff hit a grounder through the Aloha infield to score Emily Coates from third base, and that run gave the Saxons an 8-7 victory in 13 innings on June 1 and sent South Salem into the state championship game for the first time in school history. There, the Saxons lost to Century 7-3 in Saturday's finale at the OSU Softball Complex.
The Central Valley Conference champion Saxons, after their loss to Century, ended their year at 25-6. The Metro League champion Warriors, meanwhile, closed their 2011 season - the best at the school since 1979 - at 22-7.
'You know it's tough, but (head coach Steve Reynolds) really taught us to adjust to things and to just get used to things and we have to deal with it,' freshman shortstop Michelle Silva said. 'I think we really handled it in a good way, a positive way.'
'We basically had dreams of going. That was our goal in the beginning - state,' Reynolds added. 'To get so close, you're close to your dream and not make it, it's a letdown.'
Still, the Warriors pushed the Saxons to the very limit before coming up short on June 1. Indeed, the two teams' semifinal started almost 24 hours earlier and was postponed due to darkness with the score tied at 5-5 at the end of the 10th inning.
In the top of the 11th, Aloha's Anna Moore started on second base due to the international tiebreaker rule and was bunted to third by Katie Buchanan. One out later, Alex Portesi hit an RBI double into left field to put Aloha up 6-5.
'Honestly, I thought that was it,' Silva said. 'Alex usu-
ally drives everyone in. That's what pumps us up and we start getting ahead.'
'It helped. It put a little relaxation in the girls that they don't stress out in the very first inning they play,' Reynolds said.
But Raina Reece started the 11th on second base for South Salem, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored when Coates drove her in with a one-out single to right field.
The Saxons then loaded the bases with one out, but Aloha pitcher Serenil Sierra got out of the jam as she did a number of times Tuesday.
'Do all the travel and throwing and warm-up and try to throw back-to-back days - she did a good job,' Reynolds said.
In the top of the 12th, Aloha's Katie Newton started on second for Aloha, moved to third on a bunt by Rachel Thompson, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Ryan Patterson to put the Warriors back on top by 7-6.
South Salem came right back, though, with Lauran Bliss starting at second and scoring with one out on an RBI double by Kaitlin Livingston to tie the game at 7-7.
Aloha's Kiana Wood started on second base in the top of the 13th for Aloha, but was stranded at third when South Salem pitcher Katie Donovan retired the side to give the Saxons the opening they needed.
Coates started the bottom of the 13th on second, took third on a bunt by Kelly Burdick, and after a walk to Kelsie Gardner, scored when Stauff rolled a grounder up the middle for her first hit in seven at-bats in the game.
As disappointed as they were with the loss, the Warriors knew they'd put together the best Aloha season in 32 years and were proud of it.
It was 'hard work, determination and positive attitude,' Silva explained. 'I think we really connected this year and we were more like best friends instead of a team. It is heartbreaking, but it was a really good time for me.'
Kelsie Gardner was 3-for-5 for South Salem, Lauren Donovan went 4-for-5 with two doubles, Erin Norris hit a home run, and Coates was 2-for-6 with two doubles for South Salem.
The Saxons had 15 hits in the game and committed five errors, but none in Wednesday's final three innings.
Wood was 4-for-5 for Aloha, Patterson went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, and Sierra pitched 12-1/3 innings, striking out eight and walking three.
- Bill Poehler contributed to this report