Liberty softball gets a big victory against league-leading and No. 1-ranked Sandy

How tough is the Northwest Oregon Conference this spring?

So tough that Liberty’s softball team sits in fourth place in the NWOC standings — and the Falcons are ranked fifth in the state.

That’s the current state of the league, which boasts four softball teams ranked in the top eight among Class 5A schools. Sandy, which sits at No. 1 in the statewide power rankings, is in third place in its own conference, while Putnam and St. Helens — ranked sixth and seventh, respectively — occupy the league’s top two spots.

What all that means is that the conference standings likely won’t matter much when it comes to state playoff seeding, where the OSAA’s power rankings are used to hand out play-in round byes to the state’s top eight teams. So no matter where they finish in the NWOC pecking order, all four teams should get a free pass into the first round of the playoffs.

“The top four teams in the conference are pretty strong. They’re all in the top eight in the state rankings, and I think that’s pretty indicative of the quality of the league,” said Liberty head coach Nolan Meeuwsen, whose squad knocked off Sandy 3-1 on Tuesday to further complicate matters.

“Putnam, St. Helens, Sandy — all those games have been playoff-type games where it comes down to one timely hit or one defensive play,” he said. “I’d say we’re battle-tested from playing in this conference, and I think all the other teams would say the same thing.”

Liberty (18-6, 7-5) proved that it belongs among the state’s elite with Tuesday’s win over top-ranked Sandy (17-7, 8-4).

Senior Ashley Driscoll pitched well, keeping Sandy off the scoreboard until the sixth inning, and the Falcons’ bats rallied for all three runs in the top of the fifth.

Kelsey Damm got things going with a one-out double and she came home on Nicole Katyryniuk’s RBI triple. Driscoll drove in another run with a double to right field, and Paige Smotherman made it 3-0 with an RBI double of her own.

That was enough for Driscoll, who benefited from a 6-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning and a heads-up relay to throw out a Sandy baserunner to end the sixth.

Liberty will wrap up the regular season today with a home game against Milwaukie. The game will start at 5 p.m. and Driscoll, the team’s lone senior, will be honored beforehand.

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