St. Helens roars back after Liberty takes early lead; moves to second in rankings

by: JOHN BREWINGTON - Still the one. St. Helens' Mariah Mulcahy struck out 11 and kept Liberty scoreless after a shaky start in the Northwest Conference opener for the Lady Lions on Tuesday.The St. Helens Lady Lions softball team could be forgiven if they were a little rusty going into their game with Liberty on Tuesday, but they shook off a slow start for a 5-2 league win.

The squad had seen nearly a week of rain, postponing their Northwest Oregon Conference opener at Sherwood, and making Liberty their first league opponent.

Neither pitcher Mariah Mulcahy, catcher Michelle Sass or the rest of the team were operating on all cylinders at the start.

The result against a good Liberty team was an early lead for the visitors. A single, and an uncovered bunt put two runners on base, and two walks would send the first four runners to base. Two passed balls allowed what would be the only Liberty runs to JOHN BREWINGTON - St. Helens' Mariah Mulcahy gets a congratulatory high-five from coach Jeff Edwards after hitting a game-tying home run in Tuesday's game with Liberty. The Lady Lions are tied for first in the league, playing at Sandy, another unbeaten team, on Friday night.

That would be it for the Lady Falcons. St. Helens pitcher Mariah Mulcahy got in a rhythm, struck out the last two batters and got better as the game wore on.

“Their start made me a little nervous,” St. Helens coach Jeff Edwards said. “We hadn’t played in a week, the mound was soft, and we had some balls missed. Mariah started slow and there were some miscues.”

It was Mulcahy that helped her own cause in the bottom of the second inning. Taylor Leal reached base on a single, and advanced. Mulcahy then cranked a solid shot over the centerfield fence to knot the score.

An inning later, Ashley Giesbers reached base on a single, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Michelle Sass beat out a hit to short, and stole second base. She would score when the Liberty pitcher bobbled a ball hit to her by Leal. That scored Sass, and Leal advanced and scored on a play at short.

The Lady Lions were more workmanlike the rest of the game. Mulcahy struck out 11 batters, and walked just two more after the first inning. She gave up five hits.

“We should have had 15 hits,” Edwards said, “but we hit the ball right at people. We had some line drives caught and their center fielder made some good plays. They hit a little more than we would have liked, but Liberty is a good team (ranked 14th).”

The Lady Lions hit the ball solidly during the game, even though they didn’t have as many hits as they might have deserved. Michelle Sass and Leal were both two for three. Mulcahy had the two-run homer. Hailee Fischer and Stevie Strawn each had a hit. Kali Moore came off the bench to pound out a double.

While Liberty will be in the top tier of NWOC teams, the Lady Lions might have been looking a little bit ahead to their game with Sandy on Friday, April 12. Going into the game Tuesday, Sandy was ranked second in the Oregon School Activities Association rankings. Even though Sandy clobbered 2-11 Milwaukie, 8-0, they dropped to eighth in the rankings. St. Helens rose to second. The difference is that Milwaukie is ranked 32nd in the rankings and hasn’t played any highly-ranked teams. St. Helens will also probably drop when they play Milwaukie.

The Lady Lions were scheduled to play their make-up at Sherwood on Thursday. They’re at Sandy Friday for a late (6:30 p.m.) game.

“The coaches are taking the varsity up for the game,” Edwards said. “The jayvees play first and I don’t want them sitting around for six hours before we play.”

Sandy has a new turf field, but just one and they play jayvee games first. The varsity game will be played at least partially under the lights.

It’s been dubbed the game of the week in some circles.

Edwards says the Lady Lions have played a tougher schedule and should be the favorites in the contest. Of the NWOC games that have been played, the Lady Lions, Sandy, and Wilsonville are the only unbeaten teams left. That will change for one of them with the Sandy game on Monday.

Edwards says he wants to see the Lady Lions finish in the top four in the rankings. That would give them home field through at least the first two games of the state playoffs.

OSAA 5A Top 10 Rankings


1) Pendleton 11 3

2) St. Helens 8 2

3) Redmond 11 2

4) Churchill 8 3

5) Hood River Valley 10 1

6) West Albany 10 2

7) Bend 3 6

8) Sandy 11 1

9) Wilsonville 9 4

10) Dallas 7 2

by: JOHN BREWINGTON - St. Helens' Stevie Strawn eluded this tag to safely steal second base during Tuesday's game with Liberty.

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