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Former Metro rivals become battery mates at Classic

At the Oregon 6A State-Metro Senior All-Star Series on Monday, long-time rivals became friends and former Metro foes Dakota Stewart and Aloha's Kiana Wood suited up for the last time as high school players.

“It's kind of nice to play with instead of against these girls,” said Stewart, Sunset's catcher who caught three innings in both games of the series. “I've always played with Ki-Ki (Kiana Wood) but never with her and she's really nice. I love playing with her. Most of the girls on my team I've played against for about 10 years, and it's kind of exciting to play the State team because I've played them as well.”

Stepping up

Stewart hit leadoff for the Apollos, led the team with a .500 batting average and caught all the games except for the last round of Metro, when the senior moved over to first base. After not taking a grounder for a year and a half, Stewart said she was a tad worried about scooping balls on the turf but she still accumulated first-team all-Metro honors. Sunset had to rebuild this season with a lot of young players and lost to eventual 6A state champion North Medford in the first round of the state playoffs. Stewart was one of only three Apollo seniors but said the circumstances aided her personal development as a player.

“It was nice playing with the young kids and showing them how they needed to step up to be a varsity player — that they just couldn't walk on and expect to be good,” said Stewart. “It was odd because we only had five upperclassmen out of 15 players, so it was completely new, but I had to step up and be a captain and a leader.”

Stewart is continuing her softball career at Pacific University in Forest Grove. She'll be playing with her former Apollo battery mate Jessie Moore and few other girls from the Metro all-start team. Stewart said facing some of the pitchers in Division Three will be different because the Metro League had slower pitching than usual this year. The league Pacific plays in has Linfield, one of the best hitting teams in the Northwest Conference.

“I like the coach, Tim Hill, he seemed really nice, and I know most of the girls out there,” said Stewart. “I played against some of their pitchers and played with some of them, so they're familiar to me."

Turn on the heat

Wood said she knew to throw to some of the South's hitters in the wake of facing them throughout her four-year Aloha career, but mostly went with her instinct. That usually meant, throwing heat down the barrel. Wood started the second game of the All-Star series. The Metro squad dropped the first game 6-0 and the second contest 8-1.

“It was really power vs. power,” said Wood. “I love the competition. This is the game I wanted to play in. I love playing against competitive hitters. I don't like the ones that are scared and don't want to hit against me. I was ready for it.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Aloha Highs Kiki Wood indicates to Team Metro, one out, against Team State during the 6A All Star Series at Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn.

Wood accepted a full scholarship to Central Washington University and will start for the Wildcats as a freshman. Pac-12 schools like the University of Washington made their recruiting pitches to Wood, but the full ride and the chance to play immediately were too much to turn down. The lefty heads up to CWU at the end of September.

“I think that's pretty cool, there aren't a lot of girls who can say that,” said Wood. “The biggest challenge is probably going to be the more experienced hitters because I'm going to go against seniors who have been lifting for four years. That's going to be the hardest thing, but I'm ready for it. I'm not too nervous, it'll just be another day on the field.”

Wood leaves Aloha as one of the most decorated pitchers in the school's history. There was an aura around each of her outings, and the lefty developed a strong following across the Metro area. Wood was considered one of the three best pitchers in the state, a southpaw with superstar ability who could carry Aloha all the way to the promise land. Wood only allowed 50 runs all season and threw two perfect games, including one on senior night. There's no telling how good Wood will be at CWU, whether she can duplicate her high school success, but her will power is clear.

“I think if I work hard, I can be as good,” said Wood. “I think I'll always have the determination for it. I think I can do it.”

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