The Cavaliers are winning without an overpowering pitcher
After a 0-3 start to the 2013 high school softball season, many people were counting the Clackamas Cavaliers out in the race for supremacy in Oregon Class 6A high school softball. But no longer.
The Cavaliers, who graduated three of their top players from last year in all-state pitcher Sam Gutwig and all-state infielders Sarah Bigej and Jennifer Behunin, have proven that they can win without an overpowering pitcher.
Clackamas pitchers Amanda Zehr and Madison Vrabel are new to varsity level play this year and theyve been giving up quite a few hits. But theyve been keeping the ball down, walking few batters and making opponents put the ball in play. And their teammates have been making the plays on defense.
On offense, the Cavaliers have become good at manufacturing runs. Theyve got batters who can put the ball in play all through their lineup, and they have shown that they can execute the short game when needed.
Last Friday the Cavaliers topped Class 6A power Forest Grove 9-7, earning their seventh straight victory. They got outhit 9-7 in the five-inning, time-limit game. But seven different Clackamas players got hits, eight Clackamas baserunners scored, and the Cavaliers player error-free defense behind Vrabel and Zehr.
The win was over a Forest Grove program that has a reputation of being very competitive in softball. The Vikings lost to defending state champion North Medford 2-1 in 11 innings in last years state quarterfinals. Fridays loss was only the Vikings third loss in their first 10 games of the 2013 season.
The confidence is up, and were getting contributions from all over, observed Clackamas coach Dave Just.
Clackamas sophomore shortstop McKenzie Giancola let the Vikings know they were in for a game from the start, handling a ground ball, tagging a runner headed for third and making the play to Cassie Haehlen for a double play in the top of the first.
The Cavaliers then put two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Ashley Filler drew a lead-off, full-count walk, Sammie Haehlen laid down a bunt and reached on an error. Consecutive groundouts brought one run around, and senior Missy Noble followed with a run-scoring base hit.
The Cavaliers took charge of the game in the third frame when they sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on five hits, two Forest Grove errors and a successful safety squeeze by sophomore Jade Haehlen. Filler and junior Corey Erickson, who got her first start behind the plate, both smacked two-run doubles in the big inning.
The Cavaliers dropped Sherwood 6-2 in a game played at Sherwood earlier in the week. They got outhit 9-7 in that game, but they executed on offense and made their hits count. Seniors Allie Anderegg and Mariah Scholes, and Sammie Haehlen all drove in runs with timely sacrifice flies.
Giancola (2-for-4) was the only Clackamas player with more than one hit. Noble rapped a two-run double in the top of the seventh that upped the Cavalier advantage to 5-1 and put the game out of reach.
Zehr picked up the win, striking out three and walking no one, while scattering five hits in four innings of work.
Playing tight defense helps, Just said. And we got timely hitting. We scored on three sacrifice flies. We were hitting the ball deep.
The Cavaliers (7-3) were to begin Three Rivers League play this week, playing at Lake Oswego (0-3) on Monday (April 8), hosting Oregon City (5-4) this afternoon and entertaining Lakeridge (5-4) on Friday.