Lions shut out Pacers on one hit

by: Vern Uyetake, Jessica Houck fires a pitch during last week’s game against Lakeridge. Houck threw a one-hit shut-out against the Pacers to earn the victory. Lakeridge’s only hit in the game came from its lead-off batter in the first inning.

Runs have come at a premium early in the season for the West Linn softball team, but if it can consistently get pitching performances like the one Jessica Houck gave last Thursday, the Lions might not need much offense.

Houck tossed a one-hit shutout and worked her way out of a late jam to help West Linn earn a 1-0 victory over Lakeridge last Thursday, its first league win.

The senior hurler didn't overpower the Pacers but kept her opponents off balance all game long. And, when Lakeridge was able to put the ball in play, Houck was backed by some stellar defense.

'Give Jessica credit. She proves that you don't have to be fast to get outs,' West Linn coach Jamie LeVeque said.

The Pacers' lone hit of the game came from their very first batter. Mackenzie Griffin legged out an infield single on a ball that traveled fewer than 10 feet. The next batter laid down a sacrifice bunt and was thrown out but Griffin tried to take third base on the play and was gunned down by first baseman Kassy Vernon.

That would be the last runner the Pacers would get until the fourth inning. But the Lions weren't having any better luck at the plate against Natalie Rose.

In the top of the third, West Linn's Morgan Joscelyn drew a walk and was moved to second on a one-out bunt by Sachie Hopkins. Joscelyn advanced to third base on a wild pitch and Sue Schrank followed by drawing another walk.

That brought up Britt May who laced a drive to right field but she was thrown out at first base by half a step, ending the scoring threat.

West Linn's first hit of the contest came in the top of the fourth inning when McKenna Pyeatt beat out a bunt. She then stole second base but was left stranded.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Pacers put a runner on second base, following an error and sacrifice bunt. Then, with two outs, Lakeridge's Chelsea Canlas hit a drive towards the right-centerfield gap.

Hopkins and Joscelyn both converged on the ball and collided but Joscelyn came up with the catch to save a run.

'Our defense has been good all year. It's been pretty consistent,' LeVeque said.

The Lions finally broke through in the top of the fifth inning. Rhiana Russell led off with a sharp single and Hopkins reached on a bunt with one out. Schrank followed by laying down a bunt.

The Pacers' first baseman fielded the ball cleanly but couldn't decide whether to try and throw out Russell at third or tag Schrank and, in the confusion, Schrank made it to first base on a play that loaded the bases with just one out.

'Today we bunted pretty well and put the ball in play a lot which was nice to see,' LeVeque said.

Moments later, Scott fired a wild pitch past the catcher and Russell scored. But the Lions couldn't plate another run and were left clinging to a slim lead.

Lakeridge mounted one more threat in the bottom of the sixth. The Pacers' lead-off batter reached after an errant throw and Lexi Graybeal followed by drawing a walk, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs.

'Lakeridge isn't a bad team at all. They've got some kids who can play,' LeVeque said.

Houck then coaxed a fly-ball ou and a groundball that advanced both runners before getting Mel Walsworth to pop out, ending the inning.

'(Houck) pitched like a senior should in the sixth. I think every time she throws she catches the other team off guard with some of her off-speed stuff,' LeVeque said.

Houck recorded a perfect seventh inning, aided by a nice play by Vernon at first base as she stretched to make a catch and record the second out.

The win marked West Linn's first league victory of the year and snapped a tough losing streak. Last Monday's contest against Milwaukie was rained out and the two teams are slated to play again on Friday.