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MONDAY PREP SOFTBALL/BY DAVID BALL/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP/Crusaders move into second round, will face Metro League rival Westview

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Annalisa Williams of Jesuit went 2 for 3 with a double in her final appearance that helped stretch the Crusaders' lead to 4-0 on Monday against Centennial. You can't lose if you don't surrender a run.

Jesuit High used that recipe to advance through the first round of the Class 6A softball playoffs on Monday.

The eighth-ranked Crusaders topped No. 25 Centennial, 4-0, at Jesuit.

The Crusaders took the upper hand in their first at-bat, when Sammie Petitt sent a shot that got past the center fielder for a leadoff triple.

Two batters later, Maya Williams put the Centennial outfield to work again. Charlotte Marcum was tracking a deep hit to right field before she crashed into the fence as the ball carried over for a two-run homer.

"That gave us a lot of motivation," Petitt said. "We wanted to set the tone early and get the job done."

Centennial hung around, as Jesuit put its leadoff hitters on base in the next two innings but was unable to score.

The Eagles escaped in the second inning when Trislyn Schmelling caught a line drive at third and fired across the infield to pick off the runner for a double play.

In the third, Centennial catcher Hadley Cook threw out the lead runner trying to steal second.

Centennial's offense created some nervous moments for Jesuit in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Ashley Hawkins hit a bloop-single down the right-field line. A sacrifice bunt moved her into scoring position, but Olivia Strickland struck out the next two batters.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Jesuit's Jenny Marnin (left) and teammate Madison Mayhew return to the dugout after picking up the final out of the third inning during Monday's playoff game against Centennial. The Crusaders (20-8) retired 17 straight batters during the middle stages of the game, with Strickland striking out five in a row.

"I was focused on hitting my spots, taking it one pitch at a time and not trying to do too much," Strickland said.

Jesuit used a two-out spurt to double its lead in the sixth. Annalisa Williamson curved a double down the right-field line. It bounced out of play to freeze the runners at second and third. Grace Kyle followed with a line to center that scored two runs.

While the tying run never got out of the on-deck circle, Centennial did mount its biggest threat in the seventh. Marcum hit a spinner that got down in front of second base for a leadoff single, and Ellie Greene whipped a hit down the left-field line to put Eagles on second and third with only one out.

Strickland answered the challenge by striking out the final two batters. She finished with 13 strikeouts.

"Every team is going to come with a bit more energy trying to fight back at the end of the game," Strickland said. "We did a good job making the plays that mattered most to shut it down."

The biggest highlight-reel play came in the third inning. Petitt went on the move and dove face first for a catch on the edge of the infield, holding up her glove to show the field umpire she had the ball for the third out.

"I was just reading the ball. I saw it coming in short and made my best effort to get on it," Petitt said. "Defense is important. Our coach (Jim Speciale) is always telling us that those kind of plays are what win games."

The Crusaders will try to win another home game at 5 p.m. Wednesday, when they play host to Metro League foe Westview in the Oregon School Activities Association second round.

The Wildcats (20-8 and ranked ninth in the state) won both meetings during the league season, 8-3 and 2-1.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Maya Williams of Jesuit trots home after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of the Crusaders' 4-0 victory at home against Centennial.

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