The Lions trail 6-1 midway through the game, then catch fire offensively to win.
The West Linn softball team was dead in the water.
The Lions, hosting La Salle at Rosemont Middle School on Wednesday, April 5, fell behind by five runs midway through the game, struggled defensively and looked like they were ready to go home and escape the evening’s chilly temperatures.
Well, that may have been what it “looked like,” but the reality turned out to be far different.
Instead, the Lions’ sluggish offense sparked to life in the fifth inning, poured across eight runs in two at-bats and used that explosion to fuel its 9-8 non-league win over the Falcons.
“We started off a little more dead than we should have been until the last three innings,” said West Linn sophomore right fielder Emery Curtis, who went 1 for 3 at the plate with two RBIs and one run scored. “But once we start playing collectively as a team and working together being loud on the field, we definitely get the results that we want.”
“It was kind of hard when our defense wasn’t the best … (but once) we just got some energy, we knew we had a chance,” said Lion freshman pitcher Kendall Atwood, who singled, walked three times and scored three times, while also allowing eight runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batter while striking out two. “We knew if we just got a hit, we would score some runs.”
“Positive energy is our thing,” added WL senior first baseman Courtney Williams, who tripled home two runs in the fifth inning and went 1 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. “As soon as someone is positive, we can all get there as a team and we are almost unstoppable.”
La Salle, sixth-ranked in the latest statewide Class 5A coaches poll, lost its third straight game and fell to 6-3 overall.
Early on in their Wednesday contest, the Falcons got it done with the bats — and with some help from the Lions’ defense. In the top of the first, freshman Eleanor Baker reached base on an error, stole second and scored two batters later on a West Linn error.
In the second, La Salle junior Liana Stover walked, sophomore Daphne Forman reached base on another Lion error, and with two outs, Baker hit a one-run single to left and another run came home on another WL error.
The Falcons pushed their lead to 4-0 in the third when freshman Sydney Trapp singled, took second on an error, third on a wild pitch and came home on a fielder’s choice. The Lions answered with their first run in the bottom of the third when Atwood walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Curtis hit an opposite-field single down the right-field line to cut the Lions’ deficit to 4-1.
West Linn’s good fortune wouldn’t last, however. The Falcons tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth to lead 6-1, getting a run-scoring groundout by Trapp and an RBI double from senior Halia Ritcher.
But in the fifth, now facing Forman at pitcher, the Lions finally caught fire. Junior Rylee Gaustad led off with a walk, Atwood followed with a bunt single and Williams hammered a two-run triple to right.
Williams scored on a wild pitch to bring her team within 6-4, and West Linn kept rolling even after La Salle junior starter Layne Portash returned to the circle. This time it was the Falcons’ defense that faltered, committing three errors in the fifth that allowed two more Lions to score (on RBIs by junior Chloe Hart and freshman Vivienne McGraw) and tie the contest at 6-6.
Then, after Atwood set La Salle down in order in the top of the sixth, West Linn scored three more times in its half of the frame. The Lions loaded the bases on three straight walks, then got a sacrifice fly from Curtis to score one run and brought its final two home on another Falcon error.
La Salle managed to cut the West Linn lead to 9-8 with two runs in the top of the seventh — one on a Lion error and the other on a wild pitch — before freshman reliever Mckayla Castro came on to notch the game’s final two outs.
“We usually have that (energy) at the end of the game, but it’s okay — as long as we get there,” Curtis said.
“We’re not playing up to where I know we can play,” Williams added. “We feed off each other’s energy a lot, so unfortunately, when something doesn’t go our way, we tend to back down a bit. But in the dugout, we really tried to talk to each other and shake off whatever happened and go out there with a new mindset each time.”
Gaustad scored twice for West Linn, senior Chloe Dehlin had one RBI and one run, senior Rebecca Gomez went 1 for 3 and knocked in one run, Hart was 1 for 3 with one RBI, and McGraw went 1 for 2 with one RBI.
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