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After a sensational 13-2 start, the Canby Cougars softball team returned to earth amid the brutal competition of Three Rivers League play, finishing the year 2-7 — including a five-game slide.
Don’t let the record fool you, though. In that 2-7 stretch, Canby played top-three opponents four times, losing twice in heartbreaking fashion. After a disappointing week, the Cougs limped into the home stretch, dropping their final three games of the season against West Linn, Tualatin and Southridge — each by a single run.
In their opening game of the week, Canby faced a red-hot West Linn team. The Lions (7-18, 6-6 TRL) began the season a horrid 1-17 before finishing 6-1. Despite being ranked No. 27 in the state, they truly are a force to behold.
The Cougars fell down early, 2-0 on an RBI single, but rather than hang their heads, the Cougars clawed their way back. In each successive inning, Canby posted one more run on the board.
First, it was a Kaylee Allen single to bring home Chloe Moll. Then Abigail Loomis singled on a hard grounder to score Ella Kiehl. When Natalie Just drove Kenna Kraft past home plate with a deep fly ball, Canby had stormed back to take a 3-2 lead.
While the Cougars held on for the next few innings, it would not last. The Lions answered in the bottom of the fifth, knotting the game, 3-3. And in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on first, Ava Sin won the game for the Lions on an RBI double, handing Canby a heartbreaking 3-4 defeat.
Canby found themselves in a similar situation against the Tualatin Timberwolves two days later. Down 2-0 since the bottom of the third inning, the Cougars inched one step closer in the fifth when Bree Marino drew a walk to bring in Just.
Though Loomis held the Timberwolves scoreless down the final stretch with her pitching, Canby could not inch back to a tie. Aided by Camille Schmitz’s 14 strikeouts, the Wolves held on, handing the Cougs another one-run loss.
In the season finale, the Cougs could have been forgiven for feeling like they’d been caught in a Groundhog’s Day-esque time loop, as Canby entered the seventh inning down by — of course — one run.
This time around, Natalie Just was on the mound for the Cougars, as head coach Ty Kraft opted to keep his star pitcher, Loomis, fresh for the playoffs. The Cougars trailed 2-3, with RBIs from the hitting Loomis and Madi Bigej, but needed one run yet again.
Marino gave the Cougars hope in the seventh when she reached via error, and pinch-runner Gracie Vandeburgh gave it her all to give Canby a chance. Vandeburgh reached second on a passed ball, and reach third on a Kenna Kraft pop out.
With Just up to bat and a runner in scoring position, the Cougs did not get their miracle ending. Just popped up a ball that was caught harmlessly and gave Canby their third straight one-run loss.
The three losses caused the Cougars to slide slightly in the standings, finishing up in the No. 13 position. And, though it certainly marked a drop from the lofty No. 2 spot they’d once occupied, it was still good enough for a first-round home game in the OSAA state tournament — Canby’s first in a decade.
The Cougars will host North Medford, a team they beat 4-0 early in the season, on Monday.
Attendees must purchase tickets for the game in advance at osaa.org/tickets. On-site transactions will not be accepted. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.
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