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After close opening innings, the Vikings pulled away with big sixth innings over visiting Bulldogs

PIONEER PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Freshman Katelyn Dutton was a solid presence from the mound on Tuesday, April 3. The Vikings defeated visiting Willamina 13-3. Colton—The Vikings softball team had an incredibly tough preseason up to Tuesday, April 3. Colton opened their season against Clatskanie, a team currently unbeaten and ninth ranked in the state. Follow up that contest with a slew of games against incredibly tough eastern Oregon opposition, and it is easy to see why, entering its first game against the Willamina Bulldogs, Colton's record stood at 1-4.

However, facing such stiff opposition over the first part of the preseason paid dividends as the Vikings defeated the visiting softball team 13-3 at the end of six innings. It was a part of the plan for head coach Jim Brachis.

"Every team we played in eastern Oregon are going to win their divisions in league," Brachis said. "From a rankings perspective, that's a great thing because that helps us in our ranking as we go forward. When we got back, we asked the question, 'How many of you think that we're better coming back than when we left?' All of them said yes and that they did feel like they got better and faster. With eight freshmen, they're slowly speeding themselves up. They understand we try to speed them up in practice, and everything we do is at a fast pace."

The first pair of innings were even on the scoreboard. Willamina got on the board in the top of the first, and Colton answered in kind at the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Madison Olsen made it back to home plate after senior Brooklyn Olsen cracked a triple, and the game was tied at 1-1.

In the second inning, Willamina put a pair of runners on bases after Katelyn Dutton pitched a walk and the Bulldog's third batter hit a single. The next batter up hit a single, and one of the runners on base made it in to score the second point for the visiting team. Colton buckled down after that, and got consecutive outs on first base and a fly-out. While the defense came on strong at the end of the inning, the walks were something Brachis wants to steer clear of in the future.

"Katelyn Dutton is doing a really great job as one of our pitchers," Brachis said. "She's a freshman, and she really keeps us in the game. The only thing we try to avoid is walks, and the only time we put ourselves in a little bit of a problem was with a couple of early walks which they generated some runs. That's what we're trying to avoid."

In the third inning, neither team could get much offense going. Dutton kept the Willamina batters to three, and only Brooklyn Olsen was able to make it around the bases for the Vikings. The score was 3-2 for the home team by the top of the fourth inning.

Willamina did well early in the fourth. The Bulldogs loaded the bases and were poised to score. The Colton defense buckled down though, as Dutton struck out the next batter and forced a fly-out to close the top of the fourth inning.

Colton's offense began to up its output. The Vikings loaded the bases up and a Brooklyn Olsen single brought in freshman Viktoria Hanson. With loaded bases, freshman Madelynne Pierce was hit by the pitch, and freshman Lauren Reed came in to make the score 5-2.

In the fifth inning, Willamina again put a goose egg on the scoreboard. Colton junior Anna Wimsatt managed to make it back to home plate, and Colton was up 6-2.

The sixth inning was the deciding stanza of the game. Willamina scored an infield home run, and was down by three points. After the Colton defense prevented any further runs, the offense took over.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Brooklyn Olsen and Pierce had made their ways to second and first base respectively. Freshman Madelyn Robinson took to the plate and on the second pitch, crushed the ball over the fence. Three more points to the home team. PIONEER PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Freshman Madelyn Robinson connects on a pitch against Willamina. Robinson scored a home run in the April 3 game, and was a big part of the 13-3 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.

"We've been working her, she's a really strong hitter and that's why she's high in the order there," Brachis said. "We expect her to be able to put a lot of them out of there. She learned to do a short swing, very tight, and we wanted her to extend herself out and that's why that ball lifted and kept going, she finally extended herself out."

After the near grand slam, sophomore Courtney Weinberger stole home, Wimsatt and Reed were batted in by freshman Kaia Schrosk, and the game was finished with a score of 13-3.

Colton will rematch with Willamina (2-9) on Friday, April 6.

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