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After a strong start to the season and a No. 7 OSAA ranking, the Canby Cougar softball team seemed to be off to as good a start as head coach Ty Kraft could hope for.
The Cougars, who dominated two short scrimmages and outscored their opponents 15-1 the week prior, entered their Monday game as one of the hottest teams in the state.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, they met one of the few teams hotter than them in the Bend Lava Bears, led by superstar pitcher Addisen Fisher.
The Cougars (2-1) played their only game of the week three hours away from home against the Lava Bears (8-0), the No. 2 ranked team in the state. Conversely, Bend was preparing for an Idaho tournament trip — a trip where they would go undefeated.
Fisher was, not surprisingly, the person of interest for Kraft and his squad entering the game.
“Bend is the team to beat in the state this year,” said Kraft. “Their pitcher was Gatorade Player of the Year last year as a freshman. We locked her in at 67 [mph], which is D1 college speed.”
Facing the only freshman Player of the Year in the nation last year would be no easy task, but the Cougars were up for the challenge. Despite Fisher striking out 13 batters, Canby made it a contest in the top of the fifth inning.
Two of the Cougars’ three hits in the game came in that fifth inning while they were down 3-0. After a Bree Marino walk, Ava Carroll’s single brought her within scoring position. McKenna Kraft’s RBI grounder allowed Marino to score, cutting the lead to just two.
The very next play, with two outs to her team’s name, Natalie Just smacked a line drive to center field, bringing Carroll in to score. Just like that, the Cougars had climbed back into a game where they had struggled to get on base all day long.
Unfortunately for the Cougs, their comeback bid would be short-lived. Fisher proved why she was the best player in Oregon last year, smacking a solo homer on the third pitch of the inning to extend the Bend lead to 4-2. Only two batters later, Gracie Goeway hit a home run of her own, this time a two-run shot.
Those two home runs — two of four total in the game for the Bears — proved to be the difference, as the Cougars were unable to register a hit for the remainder of the game, only getting on base due to a dropped third strike and a walk-in each inning.
Abigail Loomis got the start for Canby in the loss, pitching a complete seven innings. Loomis struck out eight batters on the day and gave up seven hits. Carroll, Marino and Just were the only three Cougars to tally a hit on the day, while Kraft and Just were the two Cougs to earn an RBI.
Though the loss may hurt, it does prove that the highly ranked Cougar girls can hang with anyone that they may face on the mound — and any team in the state.
After a relatively quiet spring break, Canby will have a full week next week with four games on the docket: at Liberty on Monday at 5 p.m., at McMinnville on Thursday at 5 p.m., and two home games on Saturday, hosting South Medford and North Medford.
Saturday’s games will be the first time the Cougs will have a chance to play on their home field this season. Canby’s first game against South Medford is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., followed immediately after by the tilt with North Medford.
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