For the Central Linn softball team, the third time really was the charm.
After losing to North Douglas twice this year – 10-0 in both contests – the Cobras had another crack at the Warriors. With the league title, and playoff implications, on the line, Central Linn came out ahead with a 3-2 victory last Tuesday.
“They played a great game today, they really did. I truly think that my girls might have been a little relaxed because we 10-runned them twice both times we played them,” said North Douglas head coach Jesse Rice. “It took awhile to realize, boy if we don’t play, we’re in trouble. Even though, I kept telling them that over and over again.”
Before facing the Warriors, the Cobras started the day in a semi-final game played at North Douglas to determine which team would play the Warriors. Central Linn hung on for an 8-6 victory over Oakland and 20 minutes later, it was time for the next game.
“It went against us because we didn’t really get a chance to warm up. Normally we get plenty of time to get warmed up,” said Rice. “Take a little batting and stuff but because of the weather, the ump was like, ‘Hey this game is over, yours is starting in 20 minutes and we hadn’t even started yet. Which usually takes about an hour.”
Both pitchers controlled the game as North Douglas’ Nicki Derrick finished with 14 strikeouts. Central Linn’s Kelsey Crowson struck out nine batters as she was especially precise in hitting the corners of the strike zone.
“She doesn’t have great speed. But man, she hit her spots. And it was just enough that it was like it was almost an off-speed pitch. And my girls kept reaching out for it and it threw them off,” said Rice. “They weren’t patient enough. Didn’t wait for the ball to get to them which is something we’re definitely going to work on tomorrow.”
“She’s not Nicki Derrick. She’s not going to throw 60 (miles per hour) and rack up 20 strikeouts. But a ground ball and a strikeout are the same to me, an out is an out. So couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Central Linn head coach Marcus Campbell of Crowson. “For her to have a moment like this and everybody is hugging her and coach Rice is super complimentary of her, too. It just means the world to her and to me for her. She pitched amazing.”
In the fifth inning the Cobras struck. Aided by North Douglas errors, the team had the bases loaded with one out before a short shot to left and a passed ball on back-to-back plays saw three runs come across the plate.
The Warriors answered with a run of their own in the fifth inning and scored again in the seventh inning. North Douglas had the tying run on third before Crowson came up with a pair of strike outs to end the game.
“Well, I just think it was our bats that got us in trouble,” said Rice. “By the time they really started playing ball, it was too late. If you give us another inning, I think we would have had them. I really do. Because Nicki was actually getting better as she was pitching.”
While the loss moved North Douglas to fifth in the OSAA rankings, because the team did not win the league tournament title – despite winning the regular season title – the Warriors will not host a playoff game. This means, the team now seeded ninth in the tournament and will face 10th ranked – but eighth seeded – Bonanza in the second round of the playoffs on the road on Wednesday.
The winner will, barring any upsets, play top ranked Grant Union in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“It’s one and done from now on. One loss and we’re out of here so we’ve just got to turn around and have faith in each other and we’ve got to be aggressive,” said Rice. “Too many of those half-swings. We’ve got to get up there and hit the ball. I’ve got complete faith in Nicki to carry us but we’ve still got to score runs.”