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Busy week ends in tough loss to McNary for Forest Grove softball

Vikings spot Celts 7-0 first-inning lead en route to 15-3 loss

It was an awfully tall order for the Forest Grove softball team to fill – perhaps too tall, given the circumstances.NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove first baseman Siera Martinez hauls in a fly ball during the Vikings' 15-3 loss to McNary on Friday.

Playing their fourth game in as many days on Friday, the Vikings spotted McNary a big lead in the first inning and could never recover, falling 15-3 in six innings.

The setback concluding a long week filled with plenty of softball, two trips to the Salem area and two close losses to teams in the Greater Valley Conference’s upper echelon.

“I think we’re just worn out and tired,” Forest Grove coach Trevor Tusow admitted after Friday’s game at Jim Prickett Field. “They’re a good hitting team. It was kind of a perfect storm of us not playing real well … and them, they’ve been playing really well the second half of the season. It was just kind of a combination of things that led to that score.”

The Celts, who have won five of their past six games, took over sole possession of third place in the GVC with the result. They are 10-12 overall and 9-4 in league play with three games remaining. Forest Grove, which has only two games next week, dropped to 9-11 and 5-9, in sixth place.

McNary had its bats ready from the get-go. The first three Celts who came to the plate recorded hits off Vikings starter Delaney Aleshire, with Nadia Witt’s triple giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. That advantage grew to seven runs before Forest Grove came up with its third out.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove pitcher Delaney Aleshire takes a moment to gather herself after being hit by a comebacker during a loss to McNary on Friday. The Vikings did show some spunk in the bottom half. Sierra Gunderson led off with a walk, stole second and then moved to third on Vanessa Gonzalez’s single to left field. Two at-bats later, Aleshire also drew a walk to load the bases, after which Carissa Brown came up with a timely two-RBI single to left field.

That cut the margin to 7-2, but the hosts would not get any closer the rest of the way.

“Today, we just couldn’t string our bats together, unfortunately,”said Brown, adding that it was “just really tough.”

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove's Sierra Gunderson (right) and Kinsey Barnett can't quite field a ball near second base during a 15-3 defeat to McNary on Friday. News-Times photo: Amanda MilesMcNary recorded single tallies in the second, third, fourth and fifth frames before tacking on four in the sixth. Forest Grove generated its third run in the fourth. Morgan Mellor drew a walk from Celts pitcher Faith Danner. Her courtesy runner, Taylor Peterson, stole second and eventually scored on Gunderson’s base hit to left field.

With McNary up 11-3 heading into the sixth, the Vikings were still in position to push the game to a full seven innings, but the Celts scored all four of their runs with two outs. The final two runs came on Aleshire’s last pitch of the inning, which Witt hit for a two-RBI single. It was a comebacker that bounced off Aleshire’s leg – her second knock of the day, as the sophomore had also been hit by a Danner pitch while at bat in the third.

Earlier in the week, the Vikings pushed West Albany in an 8-5 loss at home on Tuesday before dismantling McKay 26-1 in Keizer on Wednesday. Martinez, Peterson, Gunderson and Savannah Ehly had four hits each, and Kinsey Barnett smacked a two-run home run in the first inning.

On Thursday, Forest Grove headed to south again to take on West Salem, playing its second conference contender in three days – the Titans are battling West Albany for the league title. Gunderson set the tone for the Vikings when she led off the game with the first home run of her high school career.

That helped the visitors build a 4-1 lead after two innings, but West Salem rallied for two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth to take a 6-4 lead. Forest Grove answered with a run-scoring sac fly deep to left by Ehly in the seventh, but the Vikings stranded the tying run at second base in the 6-5 loss.

“It was really heart-breaking that we lost, actually, because it was so close and we were ahead for so long,” Gunderson said. “And we all played really well last night and all of us were hitting, and it was just all the way through the lineup. Everybody was contributing.”

Though the results weren’t always there and the losses were tough, the week was also galvanizing in some ways.

“Playing those games, I think it was good for us,” Brown said. “Although it was very heart-breaking losses – probably it was the hardest losses we had all year – it was good to see us just stringing our bats back together, seeing solid defense, people going hard. It’s what we can do. We showed the potential of how our team can be.”

The week served as an important set-up for the final week of the regular season. The McNary loss dropped Forest Grove three spots in the OSAA’s Class 6A power rankings, from 35th to 38th, so the Vikings will need some upward movement for a shot at a play-in game.

 NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Abby Boozer tries to hold a baserunner at third base during Forest Grove's loss to McNary on Friday at Jim Prickett Field.They travel to South Salem on Wednesday and host rival McMinnville next Friday in their regular season finale. Tusow noted that the goal is still about the process.

“At this point, it’s just kind of with the season we’ve had, it’s kind of not really the focus,” Tusow said. “We’re just kind of looking at how do we get better? We’ve had some high highs this season and we’ve had some pretty low lows. So it’s looking for consistency and just not worrying about where things end up. We’ve got seven days guaranteed left, so that’s what we have to focus on.”