Hendley’s double sends Mac-Hi to semis

Mac-Hi pinch hitter Nicole Hendley (No. 12) celebrates with her teammates after scoring the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the seventh inning.

Mac-Hi pinch hitter Nicole Hendley (No. 12) celebrates with her teammates after scoring the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Photo by Joe Tierney.

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MILTON-FREEWATER — A pinch hitter kept McLoughlin High School’s softball season alive Friday at Yantis Park.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom seventh of the state quarterfinal game against Molalla, pinch hitter Nicole Hendley doubled in the tying run and scored on a wild pitch to send Mac-Hi to the semis with a 2-1 victory.

“Nicole’s double was huge for us,” Mac-Hi coach Nicole Christian said of Hendley. “She is a senior that is coming off an injury, so I decided to just use her as a fill-in and she made me right.

“It is nice to know that I gambled with somebody that I have confidence in and she got the job done.”

Meghan Kimball slap-hit an infield single to third to open the decisive inning, but Stephanie Copeland took her place when she hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning.

Pinch running for Copeland, Heather Carter stole second to set the table for Hedley’s extra-base knock.

Hendley slammed an RBI double to the left-field fence to score the tying run. She wound up taking third uncontested on the Indian left fielder’s throw home trying to catch the fleet-footed Carter.

Hendley didn’t stay there long.

Molalla starter Sierra Benson sent a wild pitch to the backstop in the next at bat and Hendley lumbered home for the winning run.

With the victory Mac-Hi now visits top-ranked Gladstone, which blanked Sutherlin 2-0 Friday, in the semifinal round Tuesday at 3 p.m.

The seventh inning wasn’t the first chance at scoring the Pioneers had — Mac-Hi had runners in scoring position in four different innings — but the Pioneers couldn’t find a clutch hit.

The Pioneers had their best opportunity yet in the home sixth.

Mac-Hi pitcher Colette Robert and Megan Reed both singled and each moved up a base on a wild pitch.

But Cheyenne Kessler hit a sharp grounder back to the pitcher to end the Pioneer threat.

“We’ve got a lot of good seniors that can hit,” Christian said. “It felt like we were just hitting and hitting it to everybody ... so it was awesome to see a lot of heart out there in that last rally.”

Robert, who pitched all seven innings, struck out 10 batters and walked none. She scattered five hits and gave up the one unearned run.

Benson pitched the complete game for her team, giving up two runs on five hits while striking out three.

Molalla scored its lone run in the fourth.

Benson got the inning started with a double and came around to score on a single from Molalla’s Katie Halger.

The Pioneers had a chance to throw Benson out at home, but charging right-fielder Kariss Carillo couldn’t corral Halger’s hit and Benson scored uncontested.

“We had a couple of hard hits in the field and a couple bad hops,” Christian said of her team, which committed three errors on the day. “It happens and we told them not to hang their heads. Bad hops happen and they happen at any time. We just talk about believing in each other and that last inning they showed that believing in each will get it done.”

Mac-Hi 2, Molalla 1

Molalla 000 100 0 — 1 5 0

Mac-Hi 000 000 2 — 2 5 3

Benson and Kluken. Robert and Kessler.

Hits — Molalla: Kluken, Benson, Halger 2, Williams. Mac-HI: Robert, Reed, Kimball, Hendley, Crewse.

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