by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior second baseman Kylie Alto celebrates her go-ahead RBI double in the fifth inning of the Wildcats 1-0 6A quarterfinal win over Barlow.

The razor-thin line separating playoff victory and postseason heartbreak hinges on a handful of cliff-hanging moments — four or five plays that delicately determine who sustains their second season or curtly ceases it.

The higher the round, and the better the opponent, these moments take on even more meaning and have added bearing.

Vaunting a winner’s will and displaying the guts of a cat burglar in the clutch, Westview made every pivotal play in the 6A quarterfinals against Barlow on Friday. When the game was at its direst, the Wildcats continually rose to the challenge, getting vital defensive stops, a go-ahead RBI double from Kylie Alto in the fifth and exceptional pitching from Abby Greer to pull out a 1-0 win on the road.

After not winning a playoff game since 2008, Westview is just one semifinal triumph over reigning state champion North Medford away from the 6A state title game.

“It was exhilarating,” said Alto. “After we got that last out, I got such an adrenaline rush. I started screaming and was just great. We all want this so bad. We were willing to go out and do anything to win this game.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior catcher Katie Whetstine tags out a Barlow baserunner for a pivotal third out in the third inning of the Wildcats playoff win on Friday.

Game-tilting moments

Alto’s RBI in the top of the fifth with the game stalemated at 0-0 was the crux of several preceding game-tilting moments that sent Westview to the doorstep of the state title game.

With the Bruin defense drawn in and Alexis Patino standing on third, the Wildcat second baseman boomed a fastball to dead center that reached the fence and gave Patino plenty of time to break the deadlock, 1-0.

“Kylie’s just a beast,” said junior catcher Katie Whetstine with a smile. “She always says, ‘Go all-out or go home.’ She keeps the ball in front of her, she hits and does whatever she can to get on base. It worked today.”

Alto struck out in her previous at-bat against Barlow’s Neena Dudley, after chasing a combination of inside offerings and riseballs. Yet, in her third appearance versus Dudley, the junior walked to the dish with a swagger.

“I was like, ‘OK, I got this now’,” said Alto. “I knew if I just got around and put the ball in play, anything could happen. The pitch was up high, and I thought I flew out, but good things happen. I was trying to keep calm, have a loose bat and try to get the ball anywhere I could.”

Lost in the hysteria of Alto’s heroics was how Patino was able to put herself in scoring position. Working Dudley to a full count to start the fifth, Patino patiently waited out the Bruin ace and walked on a too-high fastball to lead off the inning and turn over the Wildcat batting order. Then, the fleet junior scurried to second base on a wild pitch and later sprinted to third on a pitch in the dirt with Alto at the plate.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview junior Alex Patino put herself in scoring position for Kylie Alto when the rightfielder walked and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches.

“Once I see the ball’s down, I automatically go,” said Patino. “There’s a better chance of being safe than getting thrown out on a bad pitch. And, Kylie’s hit was beautiful. We’ve come so far, and this is our best year so far, so it’s really exciting.”

‘One out at a time’

Already masterful in the circle against a Bruin lineup that led the Mount Hood Conference in runs score, Greer got the one run she needed to mow the next nine Barlow batters for the complete game triumph.

“That was big because I knew I wasn’t going to give up anything,” said Greer. “After that, I just had to get one out at a time.”

Two of those outs came in spectacular fashion, following Alto’s outcome-altering axing. Greer hit a Barlow batter, punched out the following hitter for the first out, but walked the Bruin’s cleanup hitter to set up runners on first and second with one out.

Barlow’s next hitter mashed a clothesline shot to left that was scalded, but straight at Westview outfielder Devon Jordan. With the sun in her eyes, Jordan nonchalantly snagged the ball and left fly with a pure strike to Alto at second to nab Barlow’s lead runner for the unconventional, but golden seven-to-four double play. The once-threatening inning was dead in short order, in large part to Jordan’s cool at a critical juncture.

“I saw her halfway down the base path, and I said to myself, ‘Throw her out, get it to second’,” said Jordan. “I had a good jump off the ball, I read it off the bat pretty well. I try my best to throw, and I did my job. Practice pays off.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview sophomore pitcher Abby Greer was great once again for Westview, striking out 12 while allowing just four baserunners against Barlow.

Jordan’s twin killing might not have the same significance if not for Whetstine’s own web gem in the bottom of the third. Barlow mounted its biggest threat with a triple and a hit batter versus Greer to position runners on second and third with two outs.

On an even count against the Bruin’s leadoff hitter, Whetstine caught a just-off-plate fastball from Greer, and noticed the Barlow baserunner on third seeping off the bag about midway down the base line. Like a quarterback looking off a defensive back on the gridiron, Whetstine pump-faked the runner, who didn’t move from no-man’s land, and sent a seeing-eye strike to Makenah Robarts at third.

With Barlow’s runner stuck in a precarious pickle, Robarts ran the escapee back at Whetstine and flicked the ball back to the catcher, who lunged at the Bruin and tagged her with two hands for the third out.

“I think those make us believe we can do anything and beat anyone,” said Greer. “Those definitely give us momentum and confidence when we go into hit. And, it makes me feel a lot better knowing my team has my back.”

Whetstine said she’d never pulled off the play before in a game, but when the Barlow baserunner broke off the bag, the knowledgable catcher’s sixth sense kicked in.

“It was just instinct,” said Whetstine. “I (pump fake) all the time to see if they’ll go or not...that was the one I caught her on. It was really helpful to make that play.”

Back-and-forth duel

The huge, momentum-killing stop was daring to say the least as either Robarts’ or Whetstine’s throw could’ve been errant by a hair and let Barlow off the hook. Yet, the teamwork between the two seasoned upperclassmen, who’ve played in countless big moments, got the job done.

“We all work together with our defense,” said Jordan. “We’re very cohesive with each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses. We just play as one unit on defense, and I think that’s what benefitted us today, playing together.”

Greer’s game was fully-functioning, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 12 batters in a high-stakes, back-and-forth duel with Dudley that was dicey at times but never detrimental.

“I don’t really get nervous and never really have before,” said Greer. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been in big situations before, so it doesn’t really bother me.”

The quarterfinal conquest sets up a date with the defending state champion Black Tornado who, despite losing its ace Maryssa Becker to graduation, hasn’t missed a beat or relented its vice-like grip on 6A. Westview will venture into hostile territory in North Medford, a rabid crowd that lives and dies with its softball powerhouse and possibly a case of home cooking umpiring behind the back stop and around the infield.

These unperturbed Wildcats, however, said they’ll go in fearless as ever with chips on their shoulders ready to shock the world.

“We’re the underdogs, but we don’t care,” said Alto. “We want it just as bad as (North Medford) does. They’re a great program, but we’re going there to win.”

“North Medford is an unbelievable team, but so are we,” added Jordan. “We have just as good of a chance to make it to the state finals. I think we just have to believe in ourselves and know we can beat anyone. We know we’re a good team and can dominate.”

Westview’s never-ending supply of confidence pushed North Medford to the brink of defeat on Tuesday.

Yet, Black Tornado starting pitcher Alexis Barkwell helped her own cause in a monumental way, hitting a two-run homer off Greer just inside the left-field fence to give North Medford a 2-0 lead. The blow turned out to be decisive as the Wildcats couldn’t push any runs across in the 2-0 semifinal defeat.

The Wildcats’ best chance against Barkwell came in the seventh, when Westview put runners on first and second with one out. But, Patino lined a shot back to Barkwell who snared the drive and threw to first for the final of Westview’s Metro-title winning, state final four appearing season.

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