In a matchup between two squads hoping to reach the championship game for the first time ever, the No. 1 ranked Clatskanie Middle High Tigers defeated the South Umpqua High Lancers 10-4 in the OnPoint Community Credit Union OSAA Class 3A softball semifinals Tuesday, May 28, at Clatskanie High School.
Clatskanie's win propelled the undefeated Lady Tigers (26-0) into the state championship game against defending 3A champion Dayton Pirates in Friday's final at the University of Oregon's Jane Sanders Stadium.
The No. 4 ranked Lancers (22-6) took the initial first inning lead. South Umpqua senior pitcher and leadoff hitter Tayah Kelley (seven strikeouts, walk, 17 hits allowed) helped provide the Lancers with the early momentum as she hammered a solo homer over the 220-foot left field fence to put the Lancers up 1-0 after one inning.
The two evenly matched squads then both played solid defense in a scoreless second frame as the Lancers continued leading 1-0 after two innings.
The Tigers, guided by second-year coach Kevin Sprague, displayed their potent top ranked offense (10.76 runs average per game) and showed that they deserved their high recognition as they scored three in the third to go ahead 3-1.
Sophomore Alexis Smith hit an RBI double, sophomore pitcher Shelby Blodgett (3-for-4, 5RBI, double, single, home run) hit an RBI double and senior Maris Jackson (4-for-4, four singles) hit an RBI single to lead the Tigers offense.
"It's awesome to be going to the finals for the first time in school history," said Blodgett, who has hit a total of six homers this year. "Our winning tradition of softball is something that we regard as a big accomplishment. We lost in the semifinals last year and being able to make it to the big dance this season is just amazing. We're accustomed to coming from behind and we were not too worried about falling behind early in the game. I know that Dayton is a very good team, but we're very good as well and so it's going to be a great game."
South Umpqua came back trimming the margin to 3-2 in the top of the fourth.
Clatskanie rallied, aided by two Lancer errors, to extend its lead. Sophomore Olivia Sprague (3-for-3, three singles) connected for a sacrifice fly RBI, driving home sophomore Kami Harrison, who earlier hit a double, as Clatskanie went up 4-2 after four innings.
"It feels amazing to be going to the finals," said Sprague, who also helped lead her team to the 3A girls basketball state championship in March. "I was kind of worried when we fell behind at the beginning of the game. Our team is mentally strong though and I just knew that we would have many opportunities to score throughout the game. It feels really great to be going to the finals, particularly since we went to the finals in basketball too, so it's been a really amazing year for us. If we just continue playing good basic fundamental softball, then we'll have a good chance to win the championship."
Junior Jayden Makinson reached base on an error, Sprague drew a walk and Smith was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded. Blodgett then walloped a grand slam home run over the 220-foot left field fence as the Tigers built an 8-2 advantage after four innings. The Lancers came back and scored a one run in the fifth, to narrow the margin to 8-3 after five innings and then got another in the sixth, making it 8-4.
"I think going to the state championship game is definitely a fantastic accomplishment for our team and I think we'll have a good chance to win," said Blodgett, who had one strikeout, while issuing three walks and allowing eight hits. "After making it to the semi's last year, our goal this season was to improve and see if we could advance ever further and we accomplished our goal by reaching the championship game."
The hard hitting Tigers (17 total hits) responded to the challenge again as they scored two in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by Sammy Hummer's RBI to take control of the contest with a 10-4 lead. A scoreless seventh inning followed as the game concluded.
Clatskanie, the Special District 1 Champion, will meet the No. 2 ranked Dayton Pirates (19-5) in Friday's championship game at the University of Oregon's Jane Sanders Stadium. Dayton won 5-4 over the Cascade Christian Challengers (22-8) in Tuesday's other semifinal.
Follow the champion game at so.org and here online.