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Crook County defeats Madras 9-0 in Tri-Valley Softball

Cowgirls finish league with a 14-1 record and enter state playoffs with an 18-5 overall mark

The Crook County Cowgirls closed out the regular season in style as they celebrated senior night with a 9-0 home victory over the Madras White Buffalos in Tri-Valley Conference softball action.

"Our seniors have really been the driving force behind our season," Crook County head coach Jessica Cross said. "All four of them (McKuenzie McCormick, Aspen Christiansen, Hailey Smith and Matney Searcy) have really just stepped up as leaders, and they have taken care of the underclassmen, and they have really pushed each other to succeed. So it's just so great that they have stayed healthy, and they have stayed committed and worked so hard throughout the entire season."LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Matney Searcy lays down a bunt single during the Cowgirls seven run third inning.

Although the Cowgirls were in control throughout the contest, the game was still much closer than the score would indicate.

"Our girls made some really solid contact today, and Madras made some really great plays," Cross said. "Madras never quit, and they hit the ball hard."

McCormick, the Cowgirls starting pitcher, opened the game with a strikeout. However, Lynden Harry, the White Buffalos' second batter, reached base on an error. An infield single by Celeste Morning Owl left runners on first and second with just one out. However, Arysta Pineda hit a soft liner to second, where Kalyn Martinez snared the ball and then flipped it to Christiansen for a double play as the Cowgirls got out of an early jam.

If not for the great play from the Madras defense, the Cowgirls could have broken the game open in the bottom half of the inning. A single by Matney was followed by a sizzling line drive from Christiansen. However, Madras shortstop Kaliyah Iverson made an outstanding defensive play, spearing the ball, then throwing to first to double off Searcy and end the inning.

"We did great in the field. I think our batting was just a little bit slow today," Iverson said. "She's definitely a great pitcher. She's one of the harder pitchers we have to face, but I think that we weren't on it today. We were hoping for a little more."

Christiansen dove to catch a low line drive to begin the second inning. Then, McCormick struck out the next two batters she faced.

The Cowgirls scored the first run of the game in the bottom half of the inning as McCormick walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. An Ashley Owens double then scored McCormick. However, Madras starting pitcher Lizzie Steuart struck out Caitlyn Elliott to end the inning.

Madras threatened to tie the game in the top of the third as leadoff batter Kalissa Alire doubled. However, a strikeout followed by two ground balls to McCormick ended the threat.

The Cowgirls then broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning as they exploded for seven runs.

The White Buffalos had one error in the inning, but also made some mental mistakes, and the Cowgirls took advantage.LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County's McKuenzie McCormick slides safely into second as Madras second baseman Kianna Moschetti catches the ball.

"You know, we played really well and then we had some errors," Madras head coach Shawna McConnell said. "There was just one error, but there were some plays that we should have made that were routine. They weren't errors, but we just didn't get the play made. As a coach, you want your kids to make those types of routine plays, and when that doesn't happen, it's kind of frustrating, and it's really frustrating for a pitcher."

Martinez reached first on a throwing error to open the inning for the Cowgirls. Abby Dalton walked, and then Searcy laid down a bunt that stopped just feet in front of home plate. Madras failed to make a play on the ball, loading the bases. Christiansen then hit what looked like a routine ground ball to second, but Martinez beat the throw to the plate, leaving the bases still loaded with nobody out. McCormick then hit a soft ground ball to first and once again the White Buffalos' throw to the plate was late. Madras finally earned their first out of the inning on a Smith ground ball, but that scored another Cowgirl run. Then Emma Ackley doubled to left, scoring two more runs. Elliott doubled, following Ackley scoring another run, before Madras was finally able to get out of the inning.

"First there was the bunt, and then the infield not being able to make the plays at home and the inning just kept going," McConnell said.

"I think we just get one hit, or one baserunner and then everyone rallies," Smith said. "We get some innings that we are flat, but then someone gets a hit and one hit fires us back up."

One inning later, the Cowgirls scored their final run of the game as a Smith single to right scored McCormick. The inning could have been much bigger for the Cowgirls, but Searcy was caught in a run down at third and eventually tagged out. Ackley singled following Smiths hit, but Jiana Smith-Francis, who relieved Steuart to start the inning, was able to pitch out of the jam and get out of trouble without giving up any additional runs.

Madras threatened again in the fifth inning, as Iverson singled and eventually advanced to third. However, McCormick struck out a pair of batters to end the threat.

Martinez ripped a single to right field in the bottom half of the inning that was hit so hard that Madras nearly threw her out at first. However, once again Smith-Francis pitched her way out of trouble.

Harry and Pineda both singled in the sixth inning, before Jordan Patt hit a long fly ball that was caught by Smith on the warning track to end the inning.

The Cowgirls put runners on second and third in the bottom half of the inning on singles by Christiansen and McCormick, but once again Smith-Francis was able to pitch out of trouble.

Then, McCormick struck out the side in the seventh to end the game.

McCormick finished with 10 strikeouts, while giving up just six hits and walking no one. Meanwhile, Steuart and Smith-Francis combined to give up 14 hits while striking out one and walking two.

Alire finished with two hits for the White Buffalos, including a double, while Searcy, Christiansen, Smith, Ackley and Owens all had multiple hits for the Cowgirls. Ackley and Elliott each had one double, while Owens hit a pair of doubles.

With the win, the Cowgirls improved to 14-1 in Tri-Valley play and 18-5 overall. As league champions, they have a bye into the first round of the playoffs, where they will host a yet to be determined opponent on Wednesday, May 24.

"It's pretty monumental that we get to host a playoff game," Cross said. "It's never happened in school history, and it's a really great feeling, and it just goes to show that the girls' hard work has paid off."

Meanwhile, the White Buffalos fell to 6-9 in league play and 11-13 overall. Madras will finish in fourth place in the Tri-Valley Conference. However, they are currently ranked 22nd in the power rankings so are likely to earn an at large play-in berth.

"As of this morning, we would have been in because we are one of the higher no. 4 ranked teams," McConnell said. "I will know by Saturday if we are in. For this group, it would mean a lot. They have definitely every year improved, and this group has never been to a playoff, so that would be really fun for them."

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