Sandy remains the team to beat in NWOC softball after 2-0 win over St. Helens.

On a dark, gloomy Friday night at the Sandy softball field, the rain poured and never relented. Neither did Sandy pitcher Sammie Byron.

Even in the soggy, miserable conditions, Byron had one of the best outings of her career to push the Pioneers to a 2-0 victory against St. Helens.

In a game where the ball was constantly wet and slippery, Byron’s control was just as good as ever. She effectively changed speeds and hit spots with no trouble, and the Lions could do nothing with her. St. Helens, who entered with a 9-2 record, managed just one hit against Byron – a grounder that skidded just out of reach of third baseman Chelsea Spanier.

“I was a little more cautious with how and where I pitched them,” Byron said. “I was trying to get them to chase pitches off the plate. Because they are a good team, I knew I would have to think one step ahead of them, and I think I did that.”

Byron walked just one batter and struck out 11. The most unusual aspect of Byron’s showcase was how the rain almost fueled her fire. As she jogged out to the pitching rubber in the top of the third inning, the light drizzle turned into a steady downpour. Byron proceeded to strike out the side in order and whiffed two more Lions in the next inning.

The rain waned a bit for an inning or two, but picked back up in the sixth inning. Byron gave a slight glance up at the clouds and then struck out four of the next five batters she faced.

“Sammie was unreal,” Sandy coach Kellie Wilkerson said. “When you are mentally prepared for a game like this, like she was, you are going to be just fine.”

With St. Helens posing no threat to score, Sandy just had to get on the board itself. That hasn’t been a problem for the Pioneers this season, but Friday’s weather conditions put the runs at a premium.

Sandy stole a precious run in the bottom of the second inning to break the scoreless tie. With two outs and second baseman Presley Turin on third base, center fielder Meghan Luebbert squibbed a swinging bunt to the left side. St. Helens’ pitcher Mariah Mulcahy picked up the ball and whipped it to first, but the throw was off and Luebbert was aboard safely. Turin scored on the play to make it 1-0.

The Pioneers added an insurance run an inning later, thanks to clutch hits from Spanier and catcher Rachel Rutledge. Spanier led off by lifting a high fly ball deep to left field that one-hopped the fence. Despite being a bit hesitant on the slick turf, she raced around to third base for a triple. Rutledge then came up and wasted no time. On the first pitch, Rutledge ripped a hard groundball up the middle for an RBI-single which put Sandy up 2-0. With the way Byron threw, a two-run lead might as well have been 22.

“They just got hits when we needed them,” Wilkerson said. “We are lucky to have the hitters we have, all the way through the lineup. No one player is putting it all on their shoulders.”

By defeating St. Helens, Sandy extended its winning streak to 12 games. During the streak, the Pioneers have outscored their opponents by the almost-comical mark of 86-6. Byron’s blanking off the Lions was her eighth shutout since the winning streak began.

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