Lady Greyhounds sweep a three-game series against Knappa to move into second place

Two weeks ago, Gaston took a 5-0 lead against Vernonia in a Northwest League softball game, only to lose 8-5.

For first-year head coach Ciera Jones, it was a disappointing effort. But the Lady Greyhounds bounced back with four impressive performances last week, beating Vernonia 7-0 on Monday and then sweeping a three-game series against Knappa.

“When the girls come in focused, they play very well,” Jones said. “The problem early in the season was that once they made a mistake or the pressure was put on them, everything started to snowball.

“They’re more focused now and they’re finishing their games. I’m very pleased with the girls’ performance.”

Everything started with Monday’s win over Vernonia, a game that Jones said was important for her team’s confidence.

“The week before we had lost to Vernonia, and that’s still our one league loss,” she said. “The girls knew they had to really come out and earn that win.”

As was the case all week, Gaston leaned heavily on its pitching. Brielle Matson went the distance in the circle, allowing one hit and striking out 14 batters. The senior also went 2-for-3 at the plate.

Whitney Cookston was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and fellow senior Tayla Kuyl went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Sophomore Haylie Davis belted a triple in the third inning and also scored a run.

Davis was in the circle for Tuesday’s series opener against Knappa and she was equally dominant, throwing a seven-inning no-hitter with 13 strikeouts and sparking the Greyhounds to a 7-0 victory.

Matson and senior Cassie Van Dyke each went 2-for-4 in the win, while Cookston and Kuyl drove in two runs apiece.

The biggest win of the week, according to Jones, came on Friday in the first game of a doubleheader against Knappa.

Locked in a scoreless tie through seven innings, the teams went into international tiebreaker rules in the eighth, when sophomore Jaycie Endicott smashed a walk-off triple into the left-center field gap.

Matson — who pitched all eight innings and struck out 12 batters while allowing only one hit — started the bottom of the eighth inning on second base and moved to third on sophomore Kasey Cookston’s sacrifice bunt. The speedy Cookston raced all the way around to second base when Knappa didn’t make a play on the ball, setting up Endicott with one out and two runners in scoring position.

The sophomore didn’t disappoint, lacing a hard line drive into the alley in left-center that scored both runners and lifted the Hounds to a 2-0 victory.

“These girls are interesting,” Jones said. “They’re either very intense and not focused, or they’re very focused and not intense. They were very focused coming into that game, so they weren’t quite as excited as I would have expected them to be (in that situation).

“The good thing was that they carried over that focus going into the next game. They knew they had to earn it.”

The Lady Hounds were challenged again in the nightcap, with the score tied at 2-2 going into the fourth inning.

Davis jump-started the offense with a leadoff single to right field, and she moved to second on a passed ball. With two outs, sophomore Carly Christian hit a hard grounder down the third-base line and beat out the throw to first. Running on contact, Davis came around to score on the play, giving Gaston a 3-2 lead.

The next batter, Van Dyke, missed a take sign while Christian was attempting to steal second base, but the senior belted a triple to right-center field that plated another run.

“That’s the only time I’ve not been mad at them for missing a sign,” Jones joked afterward.

Matson earned another win in the pitcher’s circle, scattering three hits and striking out seven batters.

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