Newberg wins five of its past six games to rocket into third place in the Pacific Conference

After getting off to a 1-3 start in Pacific Conference play, apparently all the Newberg softball team needed was a busy schedule and they’d be all right.

Following their loss to league-leading Glencoe April 26, the Tigers were faced with a stretch of six games in eight days.

Beginning with the program’s first victory over Tualatin in head coach Steve Richards’ 13 years at the school April 28, Newberg has won five of six games to vault into third place in the league.

“These kids, from the start, have gotten along really well together,” Richards said. “But after having a team meeting and talking and resetting some goals after the slow start we had in league play, it refocused them as a group. They’ve definitely picked up on that and figured out they have to pick it up for each other.”by: SETH GORDON - Clamp down - Freshman shortstop Paityn Willoughby fields a ground ball during Newberg's 9-8 win over Forest Grove April 30. The Tigers have won five of their past six games to ascend into third place in the Pacific Conference.

Beginning with the 2-0 win over the Timberwolves, it has been an entertaining ride.

The Tigers were held to just two hits in that game, from Raena Kernoodle and Emily Bromagem, sandwiching them around a two walks and topping it all off with a fielding error in the bottom of the fifth.

“It was one of the greatest days in this whole season,” Richards said. “We made all the plays in the field and when somebody needed a hit, it was us and we got it. It was just a complete role reversal from what’s come to pass against Tualatin before.”

NHS turned around the next day to make up its home game versus Forest Grove, which had been suspended due to rain with Newberg up 7-6 with two outs in the top of the second inning.

The game slowed down immediately after the restart, as pitcher Madison Plummer closed out the top of the second, then kept the Vikings off the scoreboard for the next four innings.

The Tigers added two runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 9-6, then survived a nervy situation in the top of the seventh, as Forest Grove led off with a pair of hits and a Newberg error. The Vikings pushed a pair of runs across the plate, but Plummer settled back in and closed out the game on a ground ball back to the mound.

“They keep motoring through,” Richards said. “That’s a hallmark of this team. Teams in years past, two hits and an error would have foretold a big inning for Forest Grove.”

In their third game of the week April 30, the Tigers throttled Century 11-1, setting up a key contest versus Tigard.

In its most frustrating and disappointing losses of the league campaign, Newberg committed a total of 11 errors in 12-6 and 10-7 losses to Hillsboro and McMinnville, respectively.

Unfortunately that form returned May 1 against Tigard, as Richards’ team committed seven errors in an 8-7 setback.

Richards told the girls he didn’t know which team had showed up for that game, but said the same one better not show up for the bus to McMinnville Friday.

Despite falling behind 2-0, the Tigers responded, rallying for a 4-2 victory and avenging their earlier loss to the Grizzlies.

That set up another payback game against Hillsboro at home Monday and this time Newberg cruised to a 9-2 victory, led by Charity Lawson’s three-run home run.

Lawson’s 3-for-3 performance in the game capped a sizzling hot streak for the second baseman, who went 8-for-12 with 5 RBI, five runs and five walks during the six-game stretch.

“I think that having that big long week of just game after game after game and no practice has only made us stronger, more confident in our defense and our offense,” Lawson said.

The Tigers (14-7, 6-4 Pacific Conference) hold a one-game lead over the Vikings entering Wednesday’s rematch in Forest Grove, but even with a win they will have work left to do considering it will host Glencoe Friday, then finish the regular season with road games at Tualatin and Tigard next week.

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