Rachel Rutledge puts the PIoneers in front with a home run in the fourth inning

by: SANDY POST: DAVID BALL - Sandys Maddie Welch takes off from third base. Sandy’s softball team missed its chance in crunch time Friday and suffered a 3-1 loss at Rex Putnam, which put the team’s Northwest Oregon title hopes in jeopardy.

The battle of top-10 teams was deadlocked 1-1 going into the sixth inning when each team made their move to claim victory.

Sandy had the first chance when Sammie Byron launched a long ball to left field. At first it appeared as if it was gone for a go-ahead home run, but the ball came to a stop with a thud halfway up the fence holding Byron to a double.

A fielding error allowed Presley Turin to get on base, and the Pioneers were one swing away from taking the lead.

But that hit was stolen away in the next at-bat when Putnam shortstop Elysia Webb snagged a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Hannah Holliday to keep the scoreboard frozen.

It wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Putnam’s Ashley Culp led off the bottom of the sixth with a three-hopper through the dirt that eluded a Sandy glove and ended up in the left-field grass.

“That was super important, I was doing anything I could to get on,” Culp said.

She didn’t stay at first for long, scooting around to third base in a matter of pitches.

“They have a great catcher, and I knew she was going to try to throw me out,” Culp said. “I was nervous, but I broke on her throw and stayed aggressive.”

Now, it was the Kingsmen with the winning run 60 feet away, and they wouldn’t waste the opportunity.

Maggie Waymire put the ball in play with a roller down the first-base line, and Culp raced across the plate well ahead of the throw. Sandy challenged for runner interference in the base path, but the umpire denied the request.

Putnam kept the pressure on when Brooke Snyder and Hayley Dolfay found their way on base, and teammate Sydney Nichols extended the margin with a RBI-double that fell just inside the right-field chalk.

Sandy never had a chance in its final at-bats with Putnam rookie pitcher Sarah Abramson striking out the side.

Abramson struck out six straight earlier in the game.

Sandy (15-5) hosts first place St. Helens (12-6) at 5 p.m. Thursday. Sandy remains No. 1 in the 5A rankings, which feature four NWOC schools among the top-10.

The Pioneers ended a scoreless game Friday on a towering home run by Rachel Rutledge that cleared the left-field fence just in front of the scoreboard.

Sandy had another quality chance in the first inning, but had a runner thrown out at the plate and ended the threat with runners stranded at second and third.

Putnam would get that first run on the board in the bottom of the fourth, setting the stage when Taylor Balfour and Culp pulled off a double steal to put runners at second and third. Waymire came up next and hit a sacrifice ground ball toward first base that allowed Balfour to race home.

Byron struck out the next batter to keep the game deadlocked 1-1 heading into the late innings.

View a photo gallery from the game at …

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