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After a quiet spring break with only a single game on the schedule, the Cougars returned to a full slate this past week. And, true to form, the highly regarded Cougs came out on top in several tough matchups, finishing with a 3-1 record on the week.
In their first game of the week against Liberty (1-7), the Cougs (5-2) made quick work of the home Falcons. A six-run third inning set the tone for Canby, and excellent pitching from Abigail Loomis and Natalie Just allowed only three hits in the day.
Just, Kenna Kraft and Ava Carroll had two hits apiece to help lead the Cougars to a dominant 11-1 win.
Thursday saw the Cougars travel to McMinnville to take on the high-flying Grizzlies (8-1), who boast the highest-scoring offense in the state. The hard-hitting Grizzlies have scored more than 10 runs in seven of their nine games, and more than 20 runs in two.
Thursday would be no different, as both teams put points on the board with ease. Helped by a strong headwind, the Grizzlies scored all of their runs on the six home runs they hit throughout the game.
Though the game remained close as time wound down, the Grizzlies eked out a 13-10 victory, handing the Cougs their second loss of the season.
The Cougs would have little time to recuperate — or even catch their breath — as they would open up their home schedule just two days later with a double-header against two top-flight teams from Medford.
Their first matchup of the day was a top-10 tilt against No. 7 South Medford (8-1). The Panthers, fresh off outscoring their last three opponents 44-1, headed into the game with an offense nearly as lethal as McMinnville’s.
But this time around, the Cougar defense was up to the challenge. The first five innings of the game boiled down to a duel between two incredible pitchers, with Loomis battling it out against South Medford’s Kacey Hudson.
Neither team managed to score in those first five innings. For Canby’s star pitcher, it was no surprise.
“You can always count on her to keep the opponents’ offense in check and make our defensive positioning less stressful,” Carroll said of Loomis. “Abigail’s leadership and enthusiasm help keep all of us in check.”
At the top of the sixth, the Panthers finally broke through with a Nahlani Quigley RBI single to take a 1-0 lead. South Medford recorded two of their six total hits in the inning to take the advantage.
But Canby did not wait long to respond, tying the game in the very same inning. With two outs and Carroll in scoring position, the pitcher Loomis took matters into her own hands, singling a ball down the center to drive the tying run home.
The duel between pitchers continued as both players cleaned out their opposition in the seventh. Loomis struck out two Panther batters in a quick top of the seventh, before all three Cougars grounded out, sending the tight-knit game to extra innings.
The Panthers never sniffed a base in the eighth inning, as Loomis kept dealing strikes to South. All three batters struck out swinging to keep the Cougars in the driver’s seat.
Though most of the players on both sides struggled to hit, Carroll was not one of them. She accounted for more than half of the Cougs’ total seven hits — notching her fourth in the bottom of the eighth to get the Cougars on base.
After a sacrifice bunt by Just and a pop-up by Kraft, Brooke Herron stepped up to the plate. With Carroll advancing one base from the bunt and one due to a passed ball, any hit from Herron would win the game.
With a 2-2 count, Herron slapped a ball down the third baseline, moving Carroll home and winning the game for the Cougars. The Canby girls stormed the field in their thriller over the Panthers.
“Brooke has been getting better each week and working on being a consistent offensive weapon for us,” head coach Ty Kraft told the Current. “Walk-off success like that helps build confidence moving forward and Brooke is going to continue to be a major contributor to our ball team’s success in the future.”
Carroll, the player who scored the run, was also ecstatic to help get her team the victory, especially after a controversial obstruction call in the same inning.
“The feeling of crossing the plate was very satisfying and fulfilling,” Carroll told the Current, “because they were a tough team and it was a very close game.”
Following their instant classic, the Cougars defeated North Medford, 4-0. Loomis pitched another seven innings on the day, giving up only four hits. Carroll tallied another three knocks, while Just totaled two RBIs on the victory.
Over the four games and three wins, one player stood out to Kraft: Ava Carroll. Carroll was 12 for 17 on the week with a .706 batting average, hitting 6 singles, one double, four triples, and one home run. She topped off her week with eight runs scored and six RBIs.
“That is one heck of a week for any softball player, “Kraft said. “It might be the best individual week I have ever witnessed from a player.”
With their 3-1 showing on the day, Canby improved to No. 5 in the OSAA rankings.
So far this season, the Cougars have played three top ten teams — Bend, South Medford, and McMinnville — one of the toughest schedules in the state.
“The TRL league is a very good league and as we are only a few weeks away from league play,” said Kraft. “We feel we will be well prepared with the high-quality teams we are playing in the pre-season.”
Canby’s schedule won’t get any easier as they face Central Catholic — the only team to beat McMinnville this season — and Glencoe.
Their home game against the Rams is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m.
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