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.
MILTON-FREEWATER — When McLoughlin High School’s Pioneers take the field Saturday at the Class 4A state championship softball game in Corvallis, they will be facing a familiar opponent.
Banks, which defeated Newport 1-0 to earn its title-game berth, knocked Mac-Hi out of the 2012 state playoffs in the first round in an 11-inning, 4-3 marathon.
That was the closest game of the playoffs for the Braves, who went on to win the state championship with a 2-0 victory over Cascade in the title game.
“Our whole goal this season, after losing to Banks in the playoffs, was to get to the championship game and meet up with Banks,” Mac-Hi coach Nicole Christian said. “Or if we had to see them again earlier, beat Banks. It just happened that it was in the championship game this year and we are looking forward to it.”
And for Mac-Hi’s nine seniors, this will be their last chance to win a title after making the state playoffs for each of the past three years.
“We’ve had a lot of good team leadership this year with all of the seniors,” Christian said. “Everybody gets along well and they’ve played together forever.”
The Pioneers have a head of steam entering the title game, which will be played at the Oregon State University softball complex in Corvallis.
Mac-Hi is batting .376 and has hit 11 home runs this season, including a pair of bombs in a 6-0 rout of Gladstone in the semifinals.
But if this game is anything like last year’s battle with Banks, it will come down to arms, and the pitchers attached to them.
The Pioneers are well armed — pun completely intended — for that duel, as sophomore pitcher Colette Robert has been stalwart, throwing her way to a 23-3 record this season. Through three games in the playoffs thus far, Robert has allowed just one run on eight hits.
“The state championship game is a great opportunity for her to pitch in,” Christian said. “I wouldn’t want to go with anybody else at this time.”
Mac-Hi is likely to face Banks senior pitcher Kaylin Vandomelen, who has been recruited to pitch for North Dakota State next year.
“I can say that it is going to come down to pitching,” Christian said, “and which team can hit the other team’s pitcher.”
Mac-Hi hasn’t had too much difficulty hitting the ball this season — the Pioneers average 7.3 runs a game this season — but it has won with the small ball as well.
Mac-Hi has already had its share of close games in the playoffs — see the Pioneers’ 2-1 victory over Molalla in the quarters for an example.
The Pioneers trailed 1-0 in that contest until the home seventh, when Nicole Hendley tied the game with an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch to win the game.
“At this point, it is about runs,” Christian said. “We are facing teams that don’t allow a lot of runs. When we get the opportunity to score a run, maybe that one run can win the game.”
Mac-Hi’s quest for the winning run — and a state title — begins at 10 a.m.