Mac-Hi splits with Tigers, to host state play-in game

The Pioneers finish second in the Greater Oregon league after a 9-2 loss and 6-2 win over La Grande.

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Going toe-to-toe with La Grande's sliding Syndey Brown, Mac-Hi second baseman Mariah McElrath arches for the ball but can't get the out as the visiting Tigers build a 2-0 first-inning lead Saturday afternoon in Milton-Freewater.

MILTON-FREEWATER - It looked like two different Mac-Hi softball teams in each game of a doubleheader against La Grande here Saturday.

The Pioneers dropped game one, 9-2, and won game two, 6-2.

The Pioneers and coach Nicole Christian had a talk in between the two games, about where they stood in the playoffs and how the other teams were doing.

"Well, basically," Christian said, "we found out that Ontario beat Baker. So, it was a dead tie for second place for us going into the second game today. We knew that if we didn't pick up a win and Ontario won again, then we'd drop to third spot in the conference.

"And we really didn't want that because then we would be playing on the road in the state play-in game next week."

The first game for the Pioneers saw them commit errors and give unearned runs en route to the loss. Mac-Hi made four errors and gave up five unearned runs.

Mac-Hi pitchers pitched well enough to keep the Pioneers in the game, but the defense opened the door for the Tigers.

"I've been there as a player and now as a coach, and it's frustrating to let your pitcher down with errors because you work on defense all week," Christian said. "It just seemed like they find all the holes and we can't.

"La Grande had a lot of base hits and we just couldn't make that routine play to get the last out of the inning. Our fielders were right in front of the ball, but then it just goes right over our glove."

La Grande pounded out 14 hits and scored the nine runs to win the first game. Sydney Brown led the attack with a two-run home run and an RBI single. Four Tiger hitters had two or more hits in the game to pummel Mac-Hi.

The only runs that the Pioneers were able to score in the opening game of the twin bill came in the fifth inning. Pinch-hitter Brianna Crewse doubled, Harrington doubled her in and Karli Cortez had an RBI single.

Other than the fifth inning, Tiger starter Kelly Walker blew through the Pioneer lineup and pitched a complete game. Walker gave up five hits, two walks and had three strikeouts.

Pioneer pitchers Shawney Garcia and Megan Reed shared duties in the circle in that first game blowout.

The second game was a completely different story for the Pioneers and it came with a different result. Behind the stellar pitching performance of Kaitlin Erm, the Pioneers exacted their revenge.

Erm pitched the complete game, gave up two earned runs on six hits, walked none and struck out five.

The Pioneers rattled the bats in game two as well.

Mac-Hi jumped on the Tigers early, scoring three runs in both the first and third innings.

In the bottom of the first, the Pioneers had three singles. Mac-Hi also took advantage of a wild pitch and a Tiger error to score its runs.

Kariss Carillo led off the inning with a single deep in the hole at short. Alyssa Harrington bunted for a safety. A wild pitch and fielder's choice put runners on second and third with one out.

Up stepped Reed, and she singled in both runners. Reed moved up to second on the throw to the plate. Reed also scored when the return throw to second sailed past the Tiger second baseman and outfielder, rolling all the way to the fence and allowing her to score on the play.

To lead off the bottom of the third inning, Harrington hit a towering shot to center field that sailed out of the ball park for the solo home run.

Two outs followed and then Cheyenne Kessler walked. Garcia singled her to second base. Two wild pitches on the next batter, Kalyn Odman, allowed Kessler to move up to third and then score. Garcia moved all the way to third base too. Odman walked and then an infield RBI single by Belen Betancourt allowed Garcia to score.

Meanwhile, Erm sailed through the Tiger lineup, allowing just three hits and no runs in six complete innings. It took until the seventh when La Grande finally broke through against Erm and scored its two runs on three more hits.

The win gives the Pioneers a second-place finish in the Greater Oregon League and home play-in game for the state playoffs next week. The game will be either Thursday or Friday, and likely against Marshall, a team out of Portland.

Mac-Hi will be favored in the game and if the Pioneers win, they would likely host a first-round state playoff game next.

"It is single elimination from here on out," Christian said, "and we'd have to win five more games to get to the championship game. Defense will be key for us in the upcoming games and so will be our pitching. We'll decide on game day as to who starts for us in circle."

First game

La Grande 105 002 0 - 9 15 3

Mac-Hi 000 020 0 - 2 5 4

Walker and Tracy. Garcia, Reed (3) and Kessler.

HR - La Grande: Brown.

Hits - La Grande: Aldred, Tracy 2, Brown 2, Neer 2, Walker 3, Brown 3, Turnidge, Comfort. Mac-Hi: Harrington 2, Crewse 2, Cortez.

Second game

La Grande 000 000 2 - 2 7 1

Mac-Hi 303 000 X - 6 8 1

Walker, Lawrence (5)and Tracy. Erm and Kessler.

HR - Mac-Hi: Harrington.

Hits - La Grande: Tracy, Comfort, Aldred, Brown, Walker, Turnidge, Lawrence. Mac-Hi: Carillo, Harrington 2, Reed 2, Odman, Garcia, Betancourt.

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