St. Helens rises to fourth in the ratings after win over Forest Grove

I like the look of the St. Helens High girls softball team, they seem to be improving with every game and playing with a lot of confidence.

Monday, they took on 6A Glencoe, a team that by consensus has the best pitcher in the state. She’s certainly the fastest. Katie Sutherland-Finch has a full ride to Cal-Berkeley. All she did against St. Helens was strike out 18 and not give up a hit.

It may sound like a blowout, but they Lady Lions manufactured two runs on Glencoe throwing errors and took the game into extra SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington

Sutherland-Finch’s father, Lloyd, stood next to me most of the game. He was surprised by the size of the crowd out in St. Helens. I explained to him that a lot of the support went way back to the days when St. Helens was a bastion of men’s fastpitch. A lot of those players became coaches, and their daughters and granddaughters have taken up the sport.

Of course, the four state championships the Lady Lions won didn’t hurt either. Bill Rawlings was named National Coach of the Year at one point.

Softball has been a big sport around here since before it became an OSAA sport.

This year’s Lady Lions have a lot of weapons, and a lot of speed, and surprisingly for a very young team, a lot of experience. There is just one senior on the team, three juniors, six sophomores, and three freshmen.

The big gun for St. Helens is pitcher Mariah Mulcahy. She wanted to win Monday against the top-ranked 6A team in the state. She stuck out 11 batters, walked just one (Sutherland-Finch), and gave up five hits. The first two runs were unearned (sorry Lloyd), via an error, but the winning run was earned.

Mulcahy may be the best 5A pitcher in the state. If she can stay healthy, the Lady Lions could go a long way.

Nothing is ever a given in high school ball. However, St. Helens tacked on a win Wednesday night, handling Forest Grove, 6-1. The 6A Vikings came in with a 7-1 record, ranked 14th in the state. They haven’t played a lot of high caliber teams.

St. Helens coach Jeff Edwards has no qualms about playing the short game when it’s called for. His squad laid down some marvelous bunts against Glencoe, they rushed a couple of throws, and the result was two St. Helens runs and an extra-inning game.

St. Helens can bunt, they can hit with power, and they can hit under pressure.

They won’t see another pitcher the quality of Glencoe’s in the 5A ranks this season. They will see some other quality teams and some of them are in the Northwest Oregon Conference. Sandy is 9-1 and was ranked first earlier in the week. They’ve slipped to third at this writing. Wilsonville is 7-4 and ranked sixth, but they probably won’t stay there. Liberty (7-4) has also slipped behind St. Helens, actually as I was looking at the rankings on the OSAA website. I guess this is now a real-time column. The Lions were 12th earlier in the day, but after the scores were entered, and the program adjusted (it takes an hour by the way) they moved back up to 10th. Now their 11th. We’ll see where they are when the Forest Grove game is added to their record.

(Update: The Lady Lions moved to fifth late on Wednesday and by Thursday morning were fourth.)

I wouldn’t predict how a team will finish the season, but I think the Lady Lions have a shot at being right up there.

Edwards was a little miffed when he heard about a fan poll that didn’t include St. Helens among the top 5A teams.

“I’d put this team against anyone in the state,” he said. He means it and he did it Monday against Glencoe. They performed quite well. Liberty wasn’t so lucky, losing 10-2. A good team St. Helens beat, McNary lost to Glencoe 2-0.

Edwards is still his usual nervous self, but he’s trying to relax a bit. After the Forest Grove game, he said, “I’ve got a good group of kids. This is fun right now.”

With any luck at all, it will be fun all season.

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