The Crusaders upset McNary to open the state playoffs
by: Miles Vance, TAKEOFF – Jesuit’s Kelsey Downey slides home to score against McNary in Jesuit’s playoff win at Hood View Park last week.

HAPPY VALLEY - The rest of the Metro League may not have been big believers in the Jesuit softball team.

You can bet that Central Valley Conference runner-up McNary wasn't much convinced about the Crusaders' chances.

But Jesuit always believed.

And by the time the Crusaders were done knocking off the Celtics 6-2 in Tuesday's rain-delayed game in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs at Hood View Park, they might have made a few new believers too.

"I think we were all feeling good," said Jesuit junior shortstop Makaela O'Malley, who went 1-for-3 at the plate and drove in one run. "We came up with our heads up and strong and it affected the game, for sure."

"They're a very good team but now we're ready to play more good teams," added senior pitcher Halley Flake, who allowed just two seventh-inning runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out five. "We're going to come out prepared."

The win lifted Jesuit's season record to 12-17 and sent the Crusaders into the second round of the playoffs where they faced Forest Grove yesterday (Wednesday) after the Valley Times' press deadline. With a win there, Jesuit would host a state quarterfinal game on Friday against either Roseburg or North Medford.

In Tuesday's win, Flake and the Jesuit defense just flat got it done, stranding two McNary baserunners in the first inning, one in the second, three in the third, one more in the fourth and another two in the fifth. Jesuit second baseman Kelsey Downey turned a double play to end the second, Flake got back-to-back strike-outs to escape a bases-loaded jam in the third, then got consecutive outs to get out of the fifth.

Offensively, Jesuit scored two runs in third, fifth and seventh innings to take con-trol. In the second, Flake singled with one out, Hailey Malin walked and O'Malley followed with a single to right and Flake scored on an error by the right fielder. Malin, who took third on the error, then scored on Emily Allen's grounder to short to make it 2-0.

In the fifth, Downey led off with a single, Flake walked and both moved up on Malin's bunt. Downey came home when McNary couldn't handle O'Malley's grounder to short, and Allen stroked a sacrifice fly to center field to extend the lead to 4-0.

And in the seventh, Downey reached on an error, Flake singled to left, Malin bunted them over, O'Malley knocked in Downey with a fly ball and Allen then singled to left to make it 6-0.

McNary finally got going in the bottom of the seventh, getting consecutive singles by Paige Bouska, Olivia Yarbrough, Hailey Decker and Dani Saunders to score twice, but Flake bore down from there to get three straight outs and end the game.

"My curveball was right on, and my screwball came in there a little bit, but mainly it was my curveball I threw the most," Flake said. "I'm glad it was working and it felt good."

For the game, Flake went 3-for-3 at the plate and scored three times - she was the only Jesuit player with more than one hit.

"It was awesome," O'Malley added. "We're not going to go out dying out - we're going to do everything we can to support our seniors."

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