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St. Helens softball goes down swinging in state play-in at No. 9 The Dalles

Riverhawks take 5-2 lead in first inning, win 9-7

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - The Lions scored seven timely runs against No. 9 host The Dalles in their Class 5A state play-in game on Friday at The Dalles Middle School, but the Riverhawks won 9-7 on the strength of five first-inning runs.All it takes is one.

One hit, one pitch, one run, one out.

The 21st-ranked Lions could not get the two-run hit they needed, however, as No. 9 The Dalles won Friday's Class 5A state play-in game 9-7 at The Dalles Middle School.

St. Helens (9-17 overall), a winner of four Class 3A titles as recent as 1996, reached at least the play-in round for the fourth time in five years.

"Freshman year, you get a level of grit, and you keep pushing — I've had four good years," Lions senior Taylor Leal said. "At the start of the season, one of the questions was who we were. It seemed to us that we're a team that likes to scare each other: We score all of our runs at the end, and against a really good hitting team, it's harder."

Leal doubled Ashley Giesbers and Hannah Jordan across for St. Helens in the first inning, but the Columbia River Conference runner-up Riverhawks (18-9), who score 8.3 runs per game and hold teams to five after Friday, led 5-2 in the home half.

The Dalles senior Grace Helyer's single loaded the bases before the first out in the second, and junior Sierra Watson's single to center scored sophomore Kathryn Bradford and returning all-state third-team sophomore Ruthie Ford.

Senior Lori Cimmiyotti doubled home freshman Hannah Wallis and Watson, sophomore Emma Weir walked to reload the bases and junior Kailin Hoylman's groundout to shortstop scored Cimmiyotti.

"We pride ourselves on cheering in the dugout," Giesbers said. "We don't get frustrated. We have seven seconds to get better and laugh it off. It's bittersweet, but I couldn't have had a better team."

Kortney Smith and Giesbers came in on a second-inning error at first to come back to within a run at 5-4.

Riverhawks junior Shaynie Watson scored Ford in the second, and Cimmiyotti's two-out double scored Watson for a 6-4 edge.

Bradford beat a third-inning throw home on a Lions error at third for a 7-4 lead.

Cimmiyotti's home run to left center, at last allowed after argument between The Dalles coaches and the umpires regarding the number of outs, lifted her side to 9-4 in the fourth.

Brooklynn Scheer's two-out double scored Kayla Finch and Tierra Ramsay in the fifth.

Giesbers scored from third on a passed ball in the sixth, but the Lions drew no closer.

"It's helpful to have a good-hitting team," Scheer said. "We're lucky to have our seniors, we're happy to play with them and we'll miss them next year."

Bradford pitched seven innings for 10 hits and struck out five.

Scheer threw six innings for 14 hits and fanned two.

Giesbers is a first-team all-conference and first team all-state outfielder, Leal is an all-conference first-team catcher and second-team all-state.

"Having Ashley and Taylor on this team for the last four years has been amazing," St. Helens coach Miranda Little said. "Ashley can be feisty, which leads to being aggressive on the field, which is what I like to do. Taylor is a leader as a catcher on the field. She stepped up her game offensively this season because she knew that there were big shoes to fill."

Ramsay is an all-conference second-team outfielder, and Finch and Jordan are both honorable mention utilities.

All five graduate this spring.

Taylor Dow is a second team infielder, and Scheer is an honorable mention pitcher.

St. Helens, 7-9 in a sixth-place Northwest Oregon Conference run, scored 6.2 runs and allowed 6.8 per contest as they swept Milwaukie, Parkrose and Wilsonville.

The Riverhawks, who won their only state title in Class 3A in 1994, head to No. 8 twice-defending Intermountain Conference champion Ridgeview in the first round at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Redmond.