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Softball: Too little, too late for Lions in state semifinal

St. Helens rallies to score two in the top of the seventh, but can't get over the hump, falling 3-2 at the hands of Rex Putnam


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens senior Stevie Strawn rounds first after an error by Putnam in the top of the seventh. Strawn scored for the Lions in the inning, putting up one of two runs for St. Helens.For a brief moment, it looked like the magic might have kicked in at just the right time. Trailing by three runs in the top of the seventh, St. Helens knocked in a pair and put two runners on base with only one out. But that’s about as far as Putnam freshman pitcher Sarah Abramson would stretch. She allowed the Lions to put the ball in play, but the Kingsmen defense stepped up, catching the final two hits and ending the Lions’ season in the state semifinals.

The rally stopped just short, St. Helens clustered in front of their dugout, heads hung and frustrated, several of the players’ faces wet with tears.

“I just reminded the girls that it’s the first time St. Helens has been to the semis since [1999] … and that they should be really proud of how they played, but they’re all disappointed,” said Miranda Little. “They’re all ready to be in Corvallis on Saturday, and you can see it in their faces.”

The Lions had precious few hits through the first six innings, getting only a few runners past first base. Other than Ashley Geisber’s sprint to third in the top of the first, St. Helens was held mostly in check, robbed by highlight plays in the Putnam outfield.

But in the seventh, after Putnam had scored in the first, third and sixth innings, it was do or die time for the Lions. They finally found life, batting home a pair to make a game of things, and with one out and a runner on first and third, it looked like St. Helens had a comeback left in them. Falling short, said Little, isn’t easy to stomach.

“We were right there. We could have had it, all it took was for one run to fall in somewhere or something to happen, but it just didn’t happen. Too little too late,” said Little. “You can’t wait till the seventh inning to score runs, especially when they scored one in the first.”

Rex Putnam will advance to Saturday’s title game against Pendleton at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Should they upset Pendleton for the state championship, it will be the first time in modern NWOC history that the league has won back-to-back softball titles.

“It’ll be nice if Putnam wins state,” said Little. “That way, this might feel a little better. Of course we’re going to be rooting for Putnam the whole way ‘NWOC, let’s go,’ but it definitely sucks now. In a week it’ll be… it’ll probably still suck for a lot of them.”

The contest marks the final game for seniors Stevie Strawn, Karli Edwards, Kali Moore and Kelsey Ansotegui.

“The seniors are going to be upset,” said Little, “but we shared the NWOC title with [Putnam] and they’re going to the championship game, so if we’re going to lose to a team, I’d rather it be someone in our league that [can win] the title.”

The narrow gap between the two teams and the near comeback for St. Helens marks how closely matched the two programs are. Two of the three games were separated by a single run and were decided at the last moment. The Lions will get a host of pieces back for next years’ team, highlighted by the return of junior ace Mariah Mulcahy.

“It’s gonna be a blast next year,” said Little, who has put in for the permanent head coaching position. “I’ve got a great group of girls. We are losing some seniors, but I’ve got my core that’s still going to be returning, and I think that they’re going to be fired up next year because they know that we should have been there this year.”

SUMMARY

Putnam 3, St. Helens 2

Rex Putnam High School

STHE 000 000 2 -- 2

PUTN 101 001 x -- 3