Team finished third in state, won District 5 title

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The Jefferson County junior softball team, seen here after a win at the district tournament in Bend, finished the state tournament in third place.They might have been knocked down, but they certainly weren’t about to throw in the towel.

Despite a tremendous rally in the sixth inning, the Jefferson County junior softball all-star team met its demise in a 16-15, eight-inning barn burner against Scappoose in the semifinals of the state tournament in Klamath Falls.

Trailing 14-5 at one point, the team’s resolve and grit came to the forefront in the sixth, and the hits started coming in bunches.

“Really we just hit a bunch of singles and went station to station,” JC manager Jason Thomas said. “We came alive that inning, and hit like we could.”

Before the inning ended, Jefferson County turned what was almost a 10-run mercy rule game into one of the tournament’s most entertaining and exciting contests.

Jefferson County held a lead in the seventh, at 15-14, but Scappoose plated a run in the home half of the frame to tie it, and send it to extra innings.

“It was a bit stressful for everyone before the big inning,” Thomas said. “Parents were stressed, the coaches were, and the players … the scorebook even got ripped.”

On the game’s final play, a hard Scappoose grounder was fielded cleanly at shortstop, and a throw was made to home to cut down the runner from third trying to score. But the ball was mishandled by the catcher, which allowed Scappoose to score the game-winning run.

“It was a rough way to lose, for sure, but we had a great summer,” Thomas said. “We were able to keep it going into state, and we bounced back after the first loss.”

Chloe Martin had a big day at the plate for Jefferson County, batting 4 for 5 with a double. Elysia Orozco smacked a triple, and Kira Thomas and Melissa Field each had doubles for Jefferson County.

The loss ended the team’s incredible summer run through the tournament circuit, which began rather tumultuously, with a 16-13 loss to Hermiston to open the District 5 tournament in Bend.

Following the loss, however, the Jefferson County club went on a tear. They won five straight games, coming through the loser’s bracket, and took out Columbia twice to win the district title, and earn the district’s berth in state.

The club picked up the first game at the state tournament, a 12-6 win against Tillamook County, to win its sixth straight game.

Following a brutal nine-inning loss to District 3 champion Pilot Rock in the second game of the tournament, 9-6, Jefferson County continued to dominate elimination play. They pounded West Salem/Parrish/South Salem 19-2, and then toppled Tillamook County again, this time 6-2, to earn a spot in the semifinals.

by: PHOTO BY ANNA WILLARD FOR THE PIONEER - Jefferson County centerfielder Melissa Field takes a cut at a pitch during her second at-bat in the top of the third inning against Tillamook on July 13  at the Oregon Junior Softball Championships in Klamath Falls.Against the Salem-based team, Leah Buck and Thomas each hit triples, and Lizzy Wienert, Field and Orozco hit doubles.

In the second game against Tillamook, Kalissa Alire went 2 for 3 with a double, Kelsie Mitchell was 3 for 4, while Buck and Martin were both 2 for 3.

Thomas had eight strikeouts in the pitching circle for Jefferson County.

At the time, they were 7-0 in elimination games over the district and state tournaments.

Thomas said his team would have loved to have another shot at Pilot Rock, but unfortunately, they weren’t able to get one. Pilot Rock beat Scappoose, 7-5, to win the state championship and advance to Marana, Ariz., for the regional tournament.

Thomas said all but three of the team members should return for next season’s tournament run, since a lot of the players were considered 13 years old by Little League regulations this season, even though most of them will also be entering the Madras High School softball program.

“Once the girls get a year of high school softball under their belts, coming back to the juniors should be pretty easy for them,” Thomas said. “We hope we can make it further next year.”

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