The formula for North Douglas softball success has been pretty simple: if Nicki Derrick is playing, the team has a good chance to win.
It worked again on Tuesday as Derrick threw a no-hitter and hit a two-run home run as she guided the ninth-seeded Warriors (27-3) to a 2-0 victory over 20-seed Lakeview (20-9). The home semifinal victory gave the Warriors a spot in Friday’s state championship game at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene at 5 p.m.
“I’m always amazed that Nicki can handle the pressure the way she does. She’s 16 years old but I mean, the composure she has – and, again, she wasn’t getting a couple calls from the umpire – but wasn’t getting frustrated. Was mentally focused,” said North Douglas head coach Jesse Rice. “She did really well.”
Derrick threw 10 strikeouts in the game and walked three batters. But while she dominated from the pitching circle, she also came up with the only runs of the game. After teammate Riley Black got on base in the first inning, Derrick hit a home run to give the team the lead.
While the Honkers never truly threatened the Warriors, the trip to the state semifinals was not something that anyone saw coming. Lakeview finished fourth in its league and won nine of their last 10 regular season games to earn the last spot in the playoffs.
“When they walked out on the field, they were relaxed. They had nothing to lose. They had already gone further than anyone thought they would. And they walked out there saying, we’re just going to play our game,” said Rice. “Which is a great way – if you can do that, that’s great because that takes a lot of the pressure off. If you’re just out there saying, hey, we’re going to play our best game and see what happens.”
For North Douglas, the trip to the state championship is the second time in the last three years. Returning from that 2017 championship winning team includes Derrick, who was the starting pitcher that season as a freshman, Black, Joanna Alcantar, Sofia Alcantar, Natalie Draeger and Hope Ward.
“I’ve got some experience and good leadership. Still young. Only two of my girls on seniors but you know, so I’ll still be starting three freshman. But, fortunately we’ve got some experience out there to kind of help calm them down,” said Rice. “But, I mean, walking into Jane Sanders Stadium is just going to be intimidating for all of them. So hopefully my girls that have been there before will be able to calm them down and keep them focused.”
It is the fourth time North Douglas has been to the state championship in school history. The Warriors placed second in both 2001 and 2003.
In the championship, the Warriors will face a familiar foe in Kennedy (22-4). This is the sixth straight playoffs in which the two sides have played each other.