By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Working on two outs, the McNary High School varsity softball team swatted five doubles in a five-run fourth inning, but it wasn’t enough to move the team past Newberg High School in the first round of the state playoff tournament.
The 11-5 loss Monday, May 26, ended the Celtics’ season.
“Our energy and unity as a team was there. We always try our best and never go down without a fight and we did that today,” said Lady Celt Dani Saunders.
A two-run homer in Newberg’s first at-bat tipped the scale in the Tigers’ favor early. They ran up the score to 9-0 while McNary struggled at the plate.
“We started off slow and anxious,” said Kevin Wise, McNary head coach. “In the early innings, we were swinging up and down at anything looking good. When we started swinging through the ball, that’s when we got our runs.”
McNary had two outs in the bottom of the fourth when Megan Ulrey, who reached base on a double, scored on a fielding error by Newberg after a Nicole Duran hit. The next four batters, Jordyn Tutor, Kinsey McNaught, Kimi Ito and Madi Oliver, all reached second base on hits or fielding errors. By the end of the inning, McNary had closed the gap to 9-5. Newberg notched another two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning for its final runs.
McNary’s hitting steadily improved over the course of the game led by Tutor who went 2 for 3 with a RBI and run scored. Ulrey and Oliver shared duties on the mound with Ulrey taking the loss.
Saunders, who started for the varsity team all four years at McNary, said the highlight of the season was the same thing it had been for most of her high school career.
“Out of all the teams in the CVC, we’re the team that you just never know about. We always fight back regardless of how well the other team is playing. I’m proud of that,” she said. “Being part of McNary you learn how to be humble. We’re never overrated, never underrated, but we work hard for everything we earn. No one ever expects too much from us, but they never expect nothing.”
Saunders and her fellow senior Sarah Jensen will leave the team with holes to fill next season, but Wise said the team’s youth and growth during the past three months is reason for high hopes.
“Dani has been a leader for this team the whole year, but we have three talented juniors coming back in Megan, Kiana (Villarreal) and Kimi. Those are the kids that have to take that role,” Wise said.
The team also started three freshmen this season in Hannah Carr, Duran and Tutor who will return after each found moments to shine on the team.
“When you look at how much those three have grown, it’s exciting already,” Wise said.