Indians sweep Valiants, inch closer to Cowapa crown
With the hitters Scappoose softball coach Nicole Feakin has at the ready, the skipper doesn't overthink things when it comes strategy at the dish.
Boiled down, it's basically square up the pitch, let it rip and run. Feakin doesn't instruct her team to swing hard. That comes naturally. The runs have as well.
The Indians (19-3, 11-1 in the Cowapa League) piled up their 18th double-digit game of the season on Tuesday, securing a 13-1 five-inning victory over Valley Catholic at Valley Catholic High School.
"I tell them to find the center of the ball, lock on and drive it," Feakin said with a smile. "That's what going to carry us in the playoffs. Our defense has been solid, but our bats are what keep us going. The girls have been amazing this season and I couldn't be more proud of them."
While the ten-run defeat sealed a Scappoose seasonal sweep over the Valiants, Valley looked like a completely different team than the one that took the field a little less than three weeks ago. The young Valiants were much more confident and poised at the plate and in the field, not letting a 5-0 first inning deficit descend into a quick exit on senior day.
"We really kept the energy up and didn't give up or slump down like we normally do," Valley Catholic sophomore shortstop Kate Desmond said. "Earlier in the year we were trying to figure the game out with nine or 10 new girls and we didn't have the chemistry yet. But I think that's gotten a lot better."
On defense, the Valiants didn't commit an error and rather turned in a handful of impressive plays. Sophomore catcher Sophia Haggerty charged out of her stance behind the backstop and hauled in a pop fly in foul ground. Seniors Noelle Mannen and Natalie Alvis, as well as Emmeline Rockford, stayed busy in the outfield as Scappoose hit the ball with force and distance, but the trio stayed on their toes and gallantly caught the sphere when it was shot their way. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Goodno had a pair of strikeouts and leaned on her defense to help her out in the field.
"Our practices have really picked up in terms of velocity," Desmond said. "And we do lots of situationals, taking grounders and working on fundamentals instead of just figuring out where to go like we were earlier in the season. We're not giving up easy outs. It feels good to execute."
In the bottom of the fourth Desmond dinged a double to center and later scored on a Carmen Hendrickson single. Desmond led Valley with two hits. Mannen singled in the second and Alvis bagged a triple down the right-field line in the third.
"It's nice to see we have the ability to hit against a high-quality team like Scappoose," Desmond said. "It boosts our confidence because we know we can do it. Even if it's just one run, we know it's possible if we stay focused."
Since getting beat by Scappoose 22-1, Valley won its first league of the season, a 9-8 down-to-the-wire thriller with Seaside, and played competitively in losses to Astoria and Tillamook. Desmond credited Alvis with keeping Valley's spirits high, creating a positive atmosphere to compete in, even in the tougher, teachable moments.
"Even if we get our butts whooped, it doesn't matter as long as we're trying our best," Desmond said. "It doesn't matter how much we get beat by as long as we play the best game that we can."
Eight of those Indian runs came in the fourth including a three-run homer from Gabie Kreuger and a two-run double from Megan Dews. Sara Mills and Sandra Fry also notched RBIs.
"They finally broke out of the shell they were in," Feakin said with a laugh. "It took us a little while to get hitting, but they came around."
Scappoose swings freely without the shackles of taking first pitches or hopes of getting ahead in the count. The first enticing offering is jumped on. And when one Indian catches wind of a hit parade, the rest jump aboard. Feakin said she tries to split Scappoose's practice time evenly between hitting and fielding but there are some sessions where the bats are the team's lone emphasis. Kreuger led the Indians with three hits and three RBIs. Hannah Galey and Hadley Enos both had two hits apiece. Hitting is the team's pride and engine as the No. 6 Indians begin the stretch run toward the postseason. After beating Banks 9-6 on Friday to take the season series, Scappoose has sole possession of first place in the Cowapa and sits in a prime playoff spot.
"We just take it one game at a time," Feakin said. "We don't try to get too ahead of ourselves because that gets us nowhere. The girls do a good job of staying focused and showing up to every game ready to go, ready to play."