Following an emphatic playoff play-in round victory over Reynolds to seal the program's 24th consecutive playoff appearance, the No. 31 seeded Canby softball team went up against the defending state champions and No. 2 seeded Jesuit Crusaders in the first round of the playoffs Monday, May 22.
The Crusaders quickly shut the door on the possibility of an improbably upset and commenced what they hoped would be a long playoff journey.
Jesuit scored four runs in the second inning and four more in the third inning en route to a 10-0 victory at Jesuit High School.
Jesuit senior Emma Gordon bookended the contest with two scorching home runs –including one to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Following Annalisa Williamson's single, Gordon lifted Canby pitcher Morgan Block's looping pitch over the left field fence.
"The first one I was waiting for my pitch. The first pitch was a strike and I saw the second one was exactly like it so I just went for it," Gordon said.
Then, Katie Corah managed another Crusader base hit to drive in another run and eventually scored Jesuit's fourth run via a fielder's choice.
With the bases loaded in the third inning, Jesuit's Reyan Tuck blasted a pitch off the left field wall to add the fifth and sixth runs to the Crusaders tally. Following a couple Canby errors, Jesuit led 8-0.
Gordon sealed the final two runs necessary to invoke the 10-run rule via an opposite field home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
"For my second one I battled through it and the pitch before it she quick pitched me so I was a little pissed about that so I wanted to try to get the next one," Gordon said.
After Canby didn't score in the top of the fifth inning, the contest ended. Jesuit pitcher Olivia Strickland gave up just three hits and no runs in five innings pitched.
Canby head coach Jennifer Peterson felt that the Cougars could have hit the ball better in the game but were also a bit unlucky with hard hit balls in play turning into outs. For instance, Mya Pottratz belted two line drives to the outfield that turned into fly outs. She also acknowledged that Jesuit's stingy defense also played a role in the Cougars lack of hits.
Among Canby hits, Kamryn Mobley sent one screamer off the wall and Emily Goodman and Allison Davis added a couple singles.
"I told them (before the game) we were going to have to hit the ball hard just like we did last week. We knew Jesuit was going to score points on us. That's what they've done all year. But we had to come out and score points too and it just wasn't our consistent day at the plate today. We had a couple great hits, just right at them," Peterson said.
Peterson also felt that Block, who gave up six earned runs in 3.1 innings, pitched well in the contest against a daunting Jesuit lineup.
"I thought Morgan pitched great today. We knew her slower pitching and her changeups would throw them off a little bit. They've been facing fast pitching all year so our plan was to bring the slower pitching and movement. Unfortunately we had some errors in the field that didn't help her out," Peterson said.
Gordon was happy with how the Crusaders began their postseason run and says the team is focused and ready for what could be another long trek through the bracket.
"I felt like we played as a team, which we've been improving this year, and I think we're getting stronger every game and every practice we're trying our best and putting our time in knowing each game could possibly be the end for us," she said. "We're trying to play one game at a time but still have our goals in focus. We try not to pressure each other and just play our game and be ready for whatever comes at us."
The evening marked the final game of Block, Goodman, Davis and Guen Molamphy's careers.
"They did a good job trying to pump up the girls this year and get them enthusiastic. We're going to miss their enthusiasm and willingness to leave it out on the field and go hard every single time. Their bats, Allison and Emily hit great this year. We just need other people to step up in those spots next year and we need other pitchers to step up too," Peterson said.
Next year, the Cougars must find two starting pitchers to replace Goodman and Block and will need to make up for Goodman and Davis's prolific production at the plate.
"I told the girls that are coming back next year to focus on hitting. We need to hit more consistently next year. And pitchers are going to need to work in the offseason because someone needs to step up next year," Peterson said.