Glencoe's state title dreams dashed in a 2-1 loss against North Medford
Compelling. Thrilling. Heartbreaking.
The Class 6A state championship game against North Medford last Saturday in Corvallis was all of that and more for Glencoe.
Miraculously, the Crimson Tide were on the cusp of winning it all after scoring a run in the seventh inning without recording a hit. But they watched as the Black Tornado rallied to force extra innings in the bottom of the seventh and then scored the winning run an inning later for a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
An RBI single to left field by No. 9 hitter Grace Jovanovic brought home Cassie Campbell from third base and earned North Medford (29-2) its second consecutive state title.
Youre always disappointed when you go out on a no-hitter, so that was a bummer, Glencoe coach Jacy Jukkala said of North Medford ace Maryssa Becker, the reigning Class 6A Pitcher of the Year who struck out 13 batters Saturday and didnt allow a hit.
What can you do? You try to prepare all you can, and you cant play for the kids. They gotta come out here and do it. I was really proud of the season they had and how much the defense kept them in it. They did a good job.
Playing at the OSU Softball Complex, the Crimson Tide (28-2) broke a scoreless stalemate in the top of the seventh. After struggling all game to figure out Becker, Glencoe finally got the break it needed and its first base runner of the game in the initial at-bat of the inning. Resuming play after North Medford had called a time out to huddle up, on a 2-1 count Becker nailed leadoff hitter Macy Besuyen square in the torso.
Glencoe capitalized on the opportunity. In the next at-bat, Morgan Brown moved Besuyen to second base with a groundout, which brought Pacific Conference Player of the Year Courtney Clayton to the plate. On the first pitch of her at-bat, a passed ball allowed Besuyen to take third base easily. Then, on a 2-2 count, Clayton sent a grounder to North Medford first baseman Alexis Barkwell.
Barkwell tagged her own base for the second out of the inning before throwing back to home plate. But that opened up enough of a window for the tiny, hard-charging Besuyen who scored a team-high 36 runs for the Tide this season to slide feet-first under the tag of North Medford catcher Katie Williamson and score the first run of the game, which put Glencoe three outs away from its first Class 6A state championship.
Instead, the outcome ended up as the programs fourth runner-up finish in seven seasons. Glencoe took second place in Class 5A from 2007 through 2009 before breaking through for its only state title in 2010.
Since moving up to Class 6A after that season, the Tide have won three Pacific Conference titles, and they advanced to the state quarterfinals in 2011 and 2012. On the opposing side, the championship was the sixth for North Medford since 1997.
On Saturday, the Black Tornado comeback prevented seniors Katie Sutherland-Finch and Brown, the Tides center fielder, from closing out their careers with bookend titles.
The Cal-bound Sutherland-Finch yielded six hits, walked two and struck out 10 in seven innings of work. Her counterpart on the mound, Becker, stymied Glencoes potent offense with the no-hitter. She gave up no walks, struck out 13 and hit one batter.
I knew it was going to be a tough game, Sutherland-Finch said. I expected this, this kind of fight not the loss, the fight. Im so proud of the season and how weve changed tradition at Glencoe. I was just proud we got here, and I wanted to win, of course, but for me it was more about the moral battle and the moral win than the physical one on the field.
I felt like our team played very well. We didnt hit as well as we normally do, but our girls gave their entire effort.
As indicated by the hit totals, North Medford had more offensive production throughout the game, but the Black Tornado could not capitalize until their backs were to the wall. That was in part due to some outstanding defensive plays by Glencoe.
In the second inning, Williamson and Barkwell led off with back-to-back singles with no outs, but then Sutherland-Finch induced a pop-up and two strikeouts to squelch that threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Joci Ellis led off with an infield single, but Clayton stretched out to her right to smother the ball and prevent Ellis from taking any extra bases. That proved crucial, because during the next at-bat, Glencoe catcher Kamryn Apling gunned down Ellis, who was attempting to steal second, with an on-the-money throw to Clayton.
After Sutherland-Finch walked North Medfords next batter, Maddie Gates, the Tide came up with a big sequence to get out of the inning and set the stage for their run. Sutherland-Finch coaxed a strikeout out of Becker, after which Clayton alertly threw the ball to Maria Dendinger at first base to catch Gates off the bag and get a fired-up Glencoe squad out of the inning unscathed.
We made some really heads-up plays, Jukkala noted. I was really proud of them defensively. They really stepped up and looked pretty sharp out there.
With a little bit of momentum finally on their side, the Tide successfully employed some small ball to score Besuyen. But the lead did not hold.
After Katie Ramsey singled to start the bottom half of the seventh, Williamson sacrificed her to second base. Then the next batter, Barkwell, sent the first pitch she saw from Sutherland-Finch booming to left field. The ball was not far from leaving the park, but it smacked off the outfield wall instead for a double to tie up the score.
Clayton helped her teams cause by recording the second out of the inning when she tagged out Barkwell, who was inexplicably lingering off of second base after her game-tying hit, and catching a pop-up that sent the game into extra innings.
But Glencoes batting woes continued in the top of the eighth, when the Tides typically powerful bats the offense scored 209 runs this season, fifth-most in Class 6A, for an average of 7.0 runs per game remained quiet. Becker retired Kylie Surratt, Dendinger and Lauren Messmer in order, setting the stage for Jovanovics game-winning heroics.
If I knew, I would have solved the worlds problems today, Jukkala said about the reason for her teams difficulties at the plate. I dont know. (Becker) pitched a heck of a game. Thats all you can say, really.
After showing great composure on defense all game, it all unraveled for the Tide in the bottom of the eighth. The first Black Tornado batter, Michelle Draper, sent a pitch back to Sutherland-Finch, whose throw to first was bobbled by Dendinger for the first error of the contest. That would prove costly, as Campbell the scorer of the winning run was Drapers courtesy runner. Cambell advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch, which gave Jovanovic all sorts of options to drive in the winning run.
Which she did, crushing the title dreams of a game Glencoe squad.
But not its spirit.
Im OK with how it ended. As a senior, I feel like I had the most successful season out of anyone in the state, that I could have asked for, Sutherland-Finch said. We may not have won state. Obviously, on the books, North Medford (had) the most successful season, but there are moral wins that arent tallied. We definitely got those, and Im very proud of our girls.
I couldnt have asked for anything more from them.