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Seniors guide Pioneers past Wilsonville

Sammie Byron tosses two-hit shutout and Rachel Rutledge drives in three as Sandy downs Wilsonville 4-0 on Senior Night


Sandy senior catcher Rachel Rutledge has been one of the Pioneers’ most reliable hitters since last season, but the base hits weren’t falling for her as frequently in the past couple weeks. She earnestly wanted to put the mini-slump behind her before the playoffs. With the regular season finale as the backdrop, and armed with some advice from her father, Rutledge had the ingredients she needed to get back on track.

“My dad has just been telling me to go oppo (opposite field),” Rutledge said. “I need to start thinking when I get up there. For some people it’s better not to think, but I need to. I need to look at where the defense is and where I’m being pitched, then I need to react to that.”

Rutledge busted out of her funk with two huge hits and three runs batted in against Wilsonville on Friday to lead the Pioneers to a 4-0 win.

Rutledge came through for her first big blast in the bottom of the third. She stepped in with Maddie Welch and Molly Nutt on the base paths, and she shelled the first pitch she saw. Rutledge followed her father’s tip to go the other way and ripped the fastball on the outer half of the plate into the gap in right-center for a two-run triple, giving Sandy a 2-0 lead.

After Welch gave Sandy another run in the fourth with an RBI-double to the left-field fence, Rutledge came back up in the fifth inning with another chance to do some damage. With a runner in scoring position, Rutledge roped a single into centerfield to bring in the run.

“Rut stepped it up,” Sandy coach Kellie Wilkerson said. “She needed that. With it being the end of the season, we all need that.”

Rutledge was thrilled to get back in a groove, and the Senior-Day festivities only heightened her excitement.

“It started to set in that I don’t get to play on this field very much longer, and I started to get emotional,” Rutledge said. “As a team, we just tried to make the energy of the game the best we could, and it ended up being a really fun game.”

At the plate, Rutledge was one of three Pioneers with multiple hits in the contest. In addition to Rutledge, Nutt and Welch each hit safely twice while second baseman Presley Turin added a double.

In the pitcher’s circle, Rutledge’s battery mate and fellow senior Sammie Byron also had a memorable day. Byron threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout for the Pioneers. It was her third shutout of the season.

Byron stayed out of trouble for most of the game, but the Wildcats did threaten to get on the board once. In the third inning, Wilsonville used a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt to push a runner into scoring position. With two outs, Byron gloved a line drive right back at her to end the inning. Had it gotten past her into the outfield, the runner would have likely crossed.

Sandy’s one other senior – first baseman Paige Allinger – had one of her better games as a Pioneer. She bailed out her teammates in the field more than once with tough digs on throws that skipped in. Allinger’s picks at first kept the team error-free and prevented the Wildcats from extending innings.

The Pioneers improved to 19-7 with the shutout victory. They finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Class 5A RPI rankings. The lowest-ranked winner of the 5A play-in qualifiers will travel to Sandy on May 28 for the first round of the state tournament.