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Softball team locks up league title

Sandy comes back to beat St. Helens 2-1 in battle of top-10 teams


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOHN BREWINGTON - Sandy shortstop Haley Valitski reaches out to tag out St. Helens runner Steve Strawn on a steal attempt in the sixth inning. Senior left fielder Cheyenne Baker admitted to feelings of sadness during Sandy’s pregame senior day festivities. She was mulling over the thought that she was about to play a game at the Sandy softball field for the final time. Baker made her last home game one to remember.

Baker used her final few at-bats in the familiar batter’s box to help lift the Pioneers to a 13-2 five-inning victory over Parkrose on Wednesday.

“I have played with all of these girls for so long, so it was sad,” Baker said. “In the end, I was happy that we kicked butt again.”

Hitting in the four-spot, Baker did her job in the first inning by cranking a two-run double to the fence to give Sandy a 2-1 lead. The Pioneers led the rest of the way.

Baker singled and scored in her next plate appearance as part of a five-run third inning. In her third and final at-bat, she drove in another run with her second double of the game.

“I wasn’t trying to do anything special or different,” Baker said. “I just wanted to hit the ball. I didn’t care where it went.”

Baker went 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs in the contest. Fellow senior Chelsea Spanier joined Baker in leaving her mark on senior day. Spanier scored three runs and smashed a two-run triple in the fifth inning. That put the Pioneers up by 11 runs, ending the game by way of the mercy rule.

Representing the underclassmen, shortstop Hailey Valitski also had a big day at the plate. Valitski has been used a flex player, playing only defense, for most of the season, but was in the lineup against the Broncos. She was apparently excited to be hitting, because she squared up the second pitch she saw and sent it to the base of the center field fence for an RBI-triple. Valitski also singled, walked and scored three runs.

“Every player on this team can come in at any time and get the job done,” Sandy coach Kellie Wilkerson said. “I have faith in every one of them in every situation.”

? Sandy’s most important win of the week came a few days earlier when the team rallied for a 2-1 win over No. 8-ranked St. Helens — its biggest scare during its 21-game win streak.

The host Lions went ahead 1-0 in the fourth inning when Mariah Mulcahy connected for a sacrifice fly that gave Ashley Glesbers enough time to sprint home and touch in safely after a collision at the plate with Sandy catcher Rachel Rutledge.

Sandy was held scoreless into the sixth inning before Molly Nutt reached safely on a bunt and moved around the bases to tie the game on back-to-back singles by Chelsea Spanier and Sammie Byron. Cheyenne Baker followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to score Spanier with the winning run.

Sandy (21-1) has officially clinched the league title and moved up three spots in the RPI rankings (see sidebar) to No. 3 largely due to the comeback win over St. Helens.