Wolves keep on rolling as playoffs start
TUALATIN — Sure, the Tualatin High School softball team enjoyed an amazing regular season.
You could even call it perfect.
But, now that the playoffs are here, absolutely none of that matters.
And the Timberwolves may know that better than anyone.
Tualatin, which went 25-0 in regular-season play, earning the No. 1 seed going into the Class 6A state playoffs, showed that its not taking anything for granted, as it opened postseason play by storming to a 10-0, six-inning win over Central Catholic in a state playoff first-round game played Monday at Tualatin High School.
"Everyone is 0-0 from now on," said Tualatin sophomore Bella Valdes, who belted a grand slam home run in the playoff victory. "We know that we need to bring a lot of high energy each game."
"This feels so good," said Tualatin senior pitcher Megan Woodward, who threw a compete-game shutout in the win. "We've been building up a lot. We feel that this is when the season really starts."
With the loss, Central Catholic, the No. 5 team out of the Mt. Hood Conference, finished its season with a final overall record of 10-17. Tualatin upped its season mark to 26-0 with the victory. The Wolves also advance to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where they'll host West Salem on Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m., at Tualatin High School.
"We've all worked so hard," Woodward said. "We're very optimistic."
"We're ready," Valdes said with a smile.
Tualatin sure seemed to be ready for Monday's playoff opener.
The Wolves got a run in the bottom of the first inning, when Valdes scored from third base on a sacrifice bunt by senior Taylor Alton.
Tualatin then pulled away in the second inning. Senior Zoe Olivera, leading off the frame, was hit by a pitch. Junior Lily Marshall followed with a single to right field. One out later, sophomore Tia Ridings reached base on a fielder's choice. That loaded the bases, and brought Valdes to the plate.
The lefty-swinging leadoff hitter smacked a grand slam home run over the fence in right-center field, upping the margin to 5-0.
"All I was trying to do was hit the ball hard," Valdes said of her first home run of the season. "When I hit it, I felt like it might go out."
"It was beautiful," Woodward said.
Tualatin added four more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Ridings led off the frame with an infield single and Valdes then drew a walk. They both came around to score on senior Ella Hillier's double to the left-center center field, making the score 7-0.
One out later, senior courtesy runner Kayla Laird scored on Alton's double to center field. Alton would score all the way from second base later in the inning, when Central Catholic had to throw out junior Andrea Gomez at first base following a dropped third strike.
The Wolves got their 10th run, ending the game, in the bottom of the sixth inning when Ridings drew a bases-loaded walk, forcing in Laird from third base.
Tualatin, as a team, had eight hits, with eight different players having one hit apiece. In addition to her grand slam home run, Valdes also scored three runs. Alton and Hillier each doubled and drove in two runs. Laird singled and scored twice. Senior Emily Johansen, Marshall, Olivera and Ridings had the other hits.
Woodward, in her six shutout innings of work in the circle, gave up just one hits, while striking out nine and walking three.
"It went OK," she said. "Ella (Tualatin's catcher) and I have such a good connection. She always calls what I want to throw. That helps so much."
West Salem, the No. 2 team out of the Greater Valley Conference, and the No. 16 team in the OSAA power rankings, brings an overall record of 19-9 into Wednesday's second-round game. The Titans opened the state playoffs Monday with a 6-3 home win over Sunset.
Tualatin, if it wins on Wednesday, will host either Jesuit or Westview in a state playoff quarterfinal game on Friday.