The Warriors are headed home.
“Boy it feels good,” said North Douglas softball head coach Jesse Rice after the team’s near 900-mile road trip around Oregon last week.
During that trip the ninth-seeded — but fifth ranked — Warriors started off the state playoffs with a 12-7 win over Bonanza (17-10) on Wednesday, which was followed up by a 5-0 victory on Friday against top-ranked Grant Union (22-3) in the state quarterfinals.
Entering Friday’s game, the top-ranked Prospectors had a 14-game winning streak in what had been a dominant season. But it was North Douglas scoring a run in the first inning to set the tone.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off. Scoring that first run, you know that you can score against this team and you know — it just kind of helps everyone relax,” said Rice.
With the team relaxed, North Douglas pitcher Nicki Derrick did what she does best: rise up to the moment. Derrick allowed just four hits in the game and struck out 16 batters against a team that is full of talent.
“Talking to other coaches and getting ready for this team, one of the things they said was they hit the ball well. And one through nine, they said they don’t have a weak spot in their lineup,” said Rice. “And boy, I tell you, Nicki was doing so well that you could see the batters of Grant Union getting frustrated because they just couldn’t catch up to that ball.”
After the early North Douglas run, the teams traded chances but were unable to convert runs. Twice, Grant Union had runners on third — and twice, the Warriors got out of the jam. Then it was time for the visiting team to get back on the scoreboard.
In the sixth inning, the Warriors got another run across the plate before capitalizing on some Grant Union errors to score three in the seventh to extend the lead to five. The team finished with nine hits, including two from Joanna Alcantar, Riley Black and Cydni Dill.
“We definitely made them make mistakes. They had a few errors, a few overthrows, because they could see their season ending and they were panicked,” said Rice. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re a really, really good team. But they were trying to force that play when nothing was there.”
With the win, North Douglas not only moved on in the playoffs, but the team — thanks to some upsets across the bracket — will host a home playoff game in the state semifinals on Tuesday against No. 20 seed Lakeview.
“We thought we were going to stay the Road Warriors for awhile. And then Lakeview pulled off that big upset. They were ranked number 20, every game they played last week were upsets,” said Rice.
After a slow start to the season, the Honkers won 12 of their last 13 games of the season to secure the last spot in the state playoff. After three rounds of upsets, the team that finished fourth in its league is now one of four teams left in the whole state.
“I tell you, they’ve got me a little nervous. Now they’ve got to travel up and play us but apparently they travel really well,” said Rice. “We definitely can’t overlook them, we have to be ready for them.”