There comes a time when every warrior has to lay down their sword and shield no matter how hard they’ve fought and their dedication to the battle. That time came on Wednesday, May 22 for the Wallowa Valley combined softball team after their heartbreaking 11-8 home loss to Yamhill-Carlton in the first round of the 3A state playoffs.
The Outlaws entered the game at the top of their league and determined to make their presence known to the rest of the state. Yamhill-Carlton had other ideas, scoring a run in the first, while the Outlaws went blank. By the end of the third inning, the score stood at 3-3. The Tigers pitching relied on blazing fastballs while Outlaws starter Lexie Gassett relied on spot pitching, a changeup and hard-to hit screwball.
In the fifth, the Tigers went to work, hitting Gassett hard while two Outlaws errors eventually resulted in more than a few runs. When the carnage stopped, the Tigers led 9-4, and things looked bleak for the Outlaws. But the ladies clawed back, one run at a time. The Tigers managed two in the sixth with hard-hitting centerfielder Liz Rowley saving the day with a spectacular catch on a two-out line drive that brought fans to their feet.
The Outlaws scored two in their half of the frame, bringing the score to 11-6. Gassett and her defense held the Tigers scoreless in the top of the seventh. Rowley opened the inning, smashing a single into left field. While the next hitter struck out swinging, Samantha McFarland walked. Aysia Salim then snaked a base hit up the middle. Catcher Jessie Teeney took a wicked fastball to the elbow to load the bases with one out and the tying run at the plate. With the meat of the lineup coming up soon, every fan strained forward for the action, seeing the path to victory.
Second baseman, Grace Collins, came to bat with the game on the line and hit a screaming smoker of a line drive to the right side. Two feet either way and two runners score and Collins would have been on second base. Between that four feet was the Tigers second baseman who snagged the drive and tagged out the stunned runner on the way to second base.
Gassett pitched for the duration and logged three whiffs and two free passes and six earned runs.
Big guns for the Outlaws included Claire Farwell, who was 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored while Gassett went 2 for 5 with an RBI while Aysia Salim went 3 for 3 with the big stick along with two runs scored and an RBI. Ella Anderson went 2 for 4 with an RBI while Rylin Kirkland was 1 for 5 with a double. Defensively, the squad made two errors that accounted for five runs.
“I thought we played a good clean game,” Coach Gary Gassett said. “I didn’t want it to end.”
One thing that helped take the sting from the loss was the selection of three Outlaws players for first-team all league. Lexie Gassett got the nod as pitcher while Rowley made the cut as an outfielder and Claire Farwell joined the elite as an infielder. Sam McFarland made second team at first base as did Rylin Kirkland at infield while Aysia Salim nailed an honorable mention. Gassett and Farwell were also submitted for all-state honors.