Warriors end season in quarterfinals

Lailah Ward awaits the pitch.

Nobody in the entire OSAA, 1A-6A, has been as dominant as the North Douglas Warriors softball team when it comes to getting runners across home plate. Coming into Friday’s matchup with Lakeview, the Warriors were averaging 19.2 runs per game.

They haven’t been too bad on defense either, only giving up 2.4 runs per game, good for second in the 1A/2A, winning games by an average of 16.8 runs. Coming off of a 20-1 season, the Warriors hoped that could carry them to a deep playoff run, looking for their third state championship.

They topped Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii 16-6 on May 25. Then set their sights on Lakeview last Friday. Things did not continue as normal for the Warriors in the playoff quarterfinals.

“Let’s get at least one run in the first inning,” Lakeview coach Sam Tacchini told his team before the game. To the shock of many Warriors fans in attendance, they did just that and more to start the game.

Senior pitcher Halli Vaughn struggled early for the Warriors, walking Lakeview senior Emily Philibert, then giving up an RBI single to shortstop Bridget Schullanberger. After a mistake by the catcher on a throw to third base, Schullanberger was able to score. A homerun out right field by third basemen junior Jaila Jackson made the game 3-0 to conclude the top of the first.

Finding themselves in a hole early, the Warriors tried getting bats going. Lakeview junior Tyler McNeley was absolutely dominant throughout the afternoon. Nobody got on base in the first inning for the Warriors.

“That girl (McNeley) can throw the ball…man can she throw it,” said North Douglas coach Jesse Rice. “We just couldn’t get the bat going. We did (know how good she was). Yesterday we put the pitching machine on the mound and turned it up to 60 MPH. We just hit and hit and hit. Unfortunate I think she was faster than that, and we were behind the ball.”

Following retiring three straight Lakeview batters in the top of the second as a pitcher, Vaughn was able to get a base hit after a shot to left field in the bottom of the second. Senior Samantha MacDowell then drove her home with an RBI single, making it 3-1.

Lakeview responded strongly in the top of the third, junior Annikah Tacchini hit a two-run homer, making the score 5-1, bringing senior Emily Philibert around with her. No doubt this was uncharted territory for the Warriors.

In the bottom of the third sophomore Madelyn Vaughn got one of the Warriors only other hits till much later in the game. Lakeview Pitcher, Tyler McNeley retired nine consecutive North Douglas batters following the hit by Vaughn.

“I can’t take anything away from them. They hit really well; that surprised us. Our whole game plan coming into this, knowing how fast she (McNeley) was, was to play small ball. But we just couldn’t get our bunts going today and that hurt us,” Rice said.

In the top of the fourth, bases were loaded for Lakeview, but North Douglas pitcher Halli Vaughn got the Warriors out of the pinch and Lakeview left them all stranded. The game remained a 5-1 Lakeview lead till the seventh inning when a two-run homer by McNeley made the score 7-1.

The Warriors did fight in the bottom of the seventh, with Vaughn and freshman Hailey Stogsdill getting on base. But 7-1 would be the final score and the conclusion to the North Douglas season. 

“It’s times like this where you’re disappointed, but how can you be disappointed when you look at the teams that are left? The teams that are left are just as good,” said Rice. “What a great year we had. We made it all the way to the quarterfinal. I told them how proud I am of them. They’ve played really good ball.”