Crimson Tide falter in the quarterfinals with a loss to the 30th-ranked Panthers

Only one state playoff team ends the season in victory. That means that all the others lose their final game of the season.

Some losses are harder to take than others, though.

The Glencoe softball team had to stomach a difficult finale in the Class 6A quarterfinals last Friday. After jumping out to a 6-1 lead at home against South Medford, the Tide watched the Panthers rally late for a 7-6 HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe senior shortstop Courtney Clayton shakes the dust out of her glove as she prepares to make a throw to first base last Friday.

“They’re a scrappy little team. They’re a good team,” Glencoe coach Jacy Jukkala said. “We knew we had to play a good game, and we just couldn’t quite string it together when we needed it to finish it out.”

That Panther scrappiness showed in spades late.

In the top of the seventh, with No. 6 Glencoe ahead 6-4, South Medford freshman Pat Moore — the winning pitcher — led off with a single off reliever Tatum Becker. The Panthers then loaded the bases on an error and another single, and then Becker hit Tia Garrett for South Medford’s fifth run.

At that point, Jukkala put Emilee Eastman, who had started the contest in the circle, back in to pitch, and Hannah Newman launched a two-RBI single to center field to score Brittany Miller and Rachael Moore for the game-tying and go-ahead runs.

In spite of the sudden reversal of fortunes, Glencoe seemed primed to answer in the bottom half of the inning, when Courtney Clayton and Eastman both drew walks with no outs. But Kylie Surratt’s bunt attempt turned into a pop-up to Moore and Eastman’s courtesy runner was caught off first base for a momentum-killing double play.

A strikeout by Moore ended the game, sealed her side’s comeback and ended the Tide’s season in heart-rending fashion.

It was a sudden and difficult ending for the Crimson Tide, who finished the season at 22-8. South Medford (13-14), quite the playoff upstart as the 30th seed, dropped a 6-0 semifinal decision at No. 2 South Salem on Tuesday. The Saxons will play No. 1 seed and reigning champ North Medford for the 6A title on Saturday in Corvallis.

While Moore was indeed a tough opponent, Glencoe did get to her early, breaking through initially in the first inning with two outs. After Clayton singled, Eastman ripped a home run over the fence in left-center for a 2-0 lead.

The Panthers halved their deficit in the third on an RBI groundout off Abbi Bushong, who had just relieved Eastman in the circle. But the Tide exploded in the bottom half, scoring four more runs for a 6-1 lead.

Macy Besuyen tripled to lead off, and then Clayton singled her home for an RBI. The senior added the second tally on a Panthers error, and then Kamryn Apling executed a squeeze bunt to plate Eastman. Finally, Apling scooted home on a wild pitch during Jessica Vice’s at-bat.

But South Medford stuck around, pulling back a run in the fourth and two in the sixth to stay within striking distance heading into the final inning.

With the comeback, the Panthers avenged a 7-0 loss on the same field to the Tide in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.

The result brought an end to the stellar careers of five Tide seniors in Clayton, Eastman, Surratt, Maria Dendinger and Hannah Rossman.

During those players’ time in the Glencoe program, the Tide won three Pacific Conference titles, advanced to at least the state quarterfinals every year and played for a state championship last spring. Of the seniors, four have plans to play college softball, and both Clayton (UTEP) and Dendinger (North Dakota) will do so at the NCAA Division I level.

“My heart breaks for those seniors, because they wanted it so bad, too,” Jukkala said. “I mean, all the girls did, but when it’s the seniors’ last game, it makes you hurt for them.

“They didn’t want it to end either. It’s been such a fun run.”

With the graduation of such a significant senior class and a pretty sizeable group of freshmen and sophomores figuring to move up the ranks, next year’s team will undoubtedly have a different look. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Glencoe senior shortstop Courtney Clayton tracks a ground ball during last Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Aloha in the Class 6A state playoffs.

Adding to that, the program will be wading into new waters, as Glencoe joins the always-strong Metro League this fall. No. 5 Westview, this year’s Metro champion, beat the Tide 5-4 early this season and advanced to the state semifinals before falling to North Medford. Last week, Glencoe knocked off league runner-up Aloha 2-1 in the second round.

“It will be a new challenge for us,” Jukkala said. “It’s going to be a tough change. I hope the girls are ready for it. We’ll only have one senior, most likely, next year so it will definitely be a different makeup and chemistry than it is this year.”

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