Glencoe faces some tough competition during a demanding early-season stretch of its schedule

What a week.

In the six-day span from last Thursday through Tuesday, the Glencoe softball squad learned a great deal about how it stacks up in the early-season state pecking order by playing five games — four of them against other Class 6A teams sitting in the Top 10 of the OSAA power HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe senior Katie Sutherland-Finch delivers a pitch during last Thursday's 4-0 win over Central Catholic.

“It’s been a tough week,” Glencoe softball coach Jacy Jukkala admitted by phone Tuesday evening.

Jukkala’s Crimson Tide team emerged from that fire almost unscathed — winning four of the contests to bump their record to 6-1 for the year — and with the No. 1 ranking in Class 6A (as of Wednesday afternoon). Glencoe started its run by knocking off Central Catholic 4-0 in a game at Hillsboro Stadium last Thursday.

The other four games were staged Monday and Tuesday at the North Medford Spring Break Invitational in Southern Oregon.

On Monday, Glencoe fell to South Salem, 2-1, before dealing reigning 6A state champion North Medford its first defeat of the season, 4-3. The next day, the Tide cruised to 10-0 and 11-1 victories against Grants Pass and Lincoln, respectively.

“We felt pretty good about it. Those are definitely some of the top teams in the state,” Jukkala said. “South Salem, North Medford and Lincoln definitely will be top-10 for sure, come the end of it.

“It was definitely good for our kids, and they were excited. All those teams, gosh, they all played us tough.”

But Glencoe showed it also was plenty tough.

In the game against South Salem — which knocked Glencoe out of the state playoffs by a single run in the 2012 quarterfinals — the Tide outhit the Saxons, but South Salem, ranked second in the OSAA rankings as of Wednesday, scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning and clipped a Glencoe rally at just one run in the seventh to preserve the victory.

The Saxons’ first run came on an error after two bunts put runners on base and a sacrifice advanced them to second and third base. The next batter roped a ball up the middle to drive in what turned out to be the decisive run, Jukkala said.

The Tide showed some resolve — and brought their bats — in their contest against the Black Tornado, who defeated South Salem in last year’s state championship game.

Glencoe jumped on North Medford early, scoring two runs in the first inning and two more in the fifth. All four runs were scored with two outs.

In the first inning, Katie Sutherland-Finch’s RBI double drove in Courtney Clayton, who had gotten on base with a double of her own. Lauren Messmer brought in Sutherland-Finch with yet another double.

In the fifth inning, Clayton doubled again to get on base. After two Glencoe outs, Maria Dendinger hit an RBI triple to score Clayton, and Kylie Surratt hit yet another RBI double to complete the Tide’s scoring.

North Medford got all of its runs out of home runs by Maryssa Becker, who hit a solo shot in the first and a two-run home run in the seventh. The Louisville-bound Becker went 26-0 on the pitcher’s mound and was named the Class 6A pitcher of the year in 2012.

“Both Katie and Maryssa are two of the top pitchers in the state, so we were just happy we could get the bat on the ball, honestly, against Maryssa Becker, because she’s such a powerhouse,” Jukkala said.

Sutherland-Finch, who threw a no-hitter against Central Catholic and pitched in all four tournament games, currently sports a 1.17 ERA after having pitched 42 innings, yielding 23 hits and striking out 83.

On the other side of the ball, Clayton is hitting above .700 for the season, Jukkala said, while Surratt and Morgan Brown are close to .500 and leadoff batter Macy Besuyen is above .400.

And all of those impressive statistics have come during an undoubtedly challenging nonconference schedule.

“It’s nice to have a tough preseason because I get an idea of what we need to work on and where we’re at, and we definitely still have some kinks we need to work out,” Jukkala said. “But I think that it’s always nice to get four games in such short period of time, too, so you can really see.”

Glencoe gets a few days off before beginning its final stretch of non-conference games next week, starting with a contest Monday at St. Helens. The Tide are also slated to host Hermiston at Hillsboro Stadium on Wednesday before traveling to Southridge on Friday and hosting Aloha on Saturday.

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