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Softball: Lions make short work of Marist, look forward to Sandy

St. Helens beats Marist 5-1 in the first round of the softball playoffs, and will head to Sandy for the quarterfinals


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens senior Stevie Strawn takes a swing in the bottom of the fourth inning. Behind Strawns three-RBI triple in the period, the Lions were able to outdistance Marist and take care of the Spartans in the first round of the playoffs.With the torrential rain, hail and lightning storms out of the way, there wasn't much the bright sunshine could do for the drenched fields at St. Helens High School. Wednesday's game, the first round of the Class 5A softball playoffs pitting the Lions against Marist, would have to be moved from their home field and on to the turf at Hillsboro Stadium.

St. Helens basted five runs on the bright green artificial turf, wiping away the earlier storms and the letdown of missing out on their final true home game of the season with a 5-1 victory over the Spartans, punching their ticket to a quarterfinal match up with No. 1 Sandy.

But one Lion in particular, sophomore Ashley Geisbers, didn't find that displeasing whatsoever.

“She feels super fast when she gets to wear her soccer spikes, so every time that we are on turf, she always says she has her fast shoes on,” said Miranda Little, the Lady Lions' head coach. “I think every shoe of hers is fast. She loves it. If it makes her feel faster, she might run faster, I don't know.”

For Geisbers, it definitely made a difference. She had the Lions' first hit, dashing to first base after a bunt down the third base line, and stole second before being left at the top of the diamond headed to the second inning.

The thing was, she reached first base before the Spartans had a chance to throw the ball. The second time out, an easy ball up the middle, drew a throw from Marist but the visitors still weren't fast enough. Geisbers stole second a few moments later after Stevie Strawn's second strikeout, and when Michelle Sass hit a hard grounder toward center field, Geisbers lit out for home plate.

As she rounded third, the Lions had a gamble to make. The ball was in the air from center field as Geisbers entered the final stretch, and they – keeping with the voracious sophomore's aggressive mindset – decided to go for it.

Geisbers and Marist catcher Lauren Burke arrived at the plate simultaneously, with Geisbers inching under Burke's outstretched glove for the score.

“I know she knows how to slide to the right areas, so I was hoping in my head that she was going to be sliding out because the catcher was set up on the inside and that's what she did,” said Little. “Her foot got there before they tagged her. It was nice to get a run there and then a few more.”

The ‘few more' came shortly thereafter.

With the Lions already up 2-0 after Sass jumped on a mistake in the bottom of the third, Strawn's bat finally woke up. The bottom of the fourth began beautifully for St. Helens, who got Hailee Fischer and Karli Edwards on base as the Marist pitching staff slowly began to melt down.

Geisbers picked up yet another hit and sped to first, loading the bases and bringing Strawn to the plate for a chance at redemption – in a big way.

“I was just thinking ‘you better get on. You better do something to get on' because I had struck out the two at-bats before,” said Strawn, who had played the role of lead off for much of the year. “It was the perfect opportunity because we had three runners on.”

Strawn picked up two strikes in a hurry, and kept her at-bat alive with a foul tip. And with the count at 2-2, something clicked. Strawn connected on Shawna Burke's pitch, sending it in what looked like the direction of a Spartan glove down the first base line, but it missed, bouncing deep into the outfield.

“I was watching it,” said Strawn. “Once I got to first I saw her miss it, and I was going.”

The hit scored not one, not two, but all three of the Lions on base, putting Strawn at third and St. Helens firmly in control.

“I thought it was just going to be a single, a two-run single, because their right fielder was there, but it went under her glove,” said Little. “Then I was like ‘well, Stevie might be able to get home on it.' Secretly, I was like ‘Yeah! In-park grand-slam!' They got it, and she got to third, which is awesome.”

The Spartans picked up one run down the stretch, but Marist needed far more than one good stretch to burst past junior pitcher Mariah Mulcahy, who struck out seven batters and walked two, giving up five hits in the victory.

Now, the Lions will turn their focus on a strangely familiar foe: the Sandy Pioneers, who will attempt to stand in St. Helens' way to the semifinals on Friday. The two teams split their games during league play, with each squad taking the game on the others' home field.

And Sandy's turf? It's, well... turf.

“We were pretty ready for [Marist] and I think we're going to be even more ready for Sandy because they're our rival,” said Strawn. “I'm excited, but I think it should be a good game.”

The Lions received more good news after their postgame huddle: they'll get a busload of rowdy rooters to cheer them on for the game in Sandy.

“Last time we played Sandy at Sandy we got the win, so I think the girls are really excited,” said Little. “[Sandy's] going to be out for us this time.”

SUMMARY

St. Helens 5, Marist 1

Hillsboro Stadium

MARI 000 010 0 – 1 5 2

STHE 002 300 x – 5 7 1

Marist

Hits (6): Lauren Burke 2, Behrends 2, Martin, Balderston

RBI (1): Lauren Burke

Run (1): Martin

LP: Shawna Burke (6 IP, 6 hits, two walks six strikeouts)

St. Helens

Hits (7): Ashley Geisbers 3, Strawn, Sass, Leal, Edwards

RBIs (4): Strawn 3, Sass

Runs (5): Geisbers 2, Sass, Fischer

WP: Mariah Mulcahy (7 IP, five hits, two walks, seven strikeouts)

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