Mountainside softball gets back on track, beats Aloha
For the first time all season, adversity struck the Mountainside softball team, like taking a rise ball square in the ribs.
Three consecutive losses to some of the Class 6A's royalty including Tualatin and Glencoe brought the meteoric rising Mavericks back down to Earth a bit. Such, setbacks, however, were anticipated by all associated with the program. Young teams tend to rise and fall, especially when the season is still in its early beginnings. And when that metaphorical pitch hit the Mavericks, they wore it and didn't rub the pain away walking down the first base line.
Rather, Mountainside responded with its bats, piling up 17 runs on 14 hits to beat Aloha 17-7 in five innings on April 12 at Aloha High School. It was the Mavericks' Metro League unveiling, one that didn't come without hiccups. The Warriors' heralded upperclassmen Emily Churchill and Leina Belog ensured Mountainside wouldn't go into the weekend without a fight, making big-time plays at the plate and in the field. But Mountainside resorted back to the basics that triggered a great 8-1 start to the season and stayed tight when Aloha put the pressure on.
"We didn't really have it in our hearts then," Mountainside junior shortstop Madison Cochell said of the three-game skid. "We needed to have more of a drive. We're working to come together more as a team and put our 'all' into everything that we do. This was actually really relieving. It was a really big confidence booster for the whole team."
The Mavericks roared out to a 9-0 lead in the top of the first inning, getting RBIs from up and down the lineup including a two-run double from freshman Kendall Stout and two RBIs from first baseman Cassidy Kachnik. Cochell and Addison Kachnik both had two-run singles and Cassidy Kachnik added another RBI in the fourth.
"We went in not thinking much of it, we just had confidence," Cochell said. "We need to pump each other up more and put that confidence into one another. We have to funnel our energy. We did that more today."
Mountainside spoiled Belog's seasonal debut with the win, but the Warrior third baseman still had a massive impact on the diamond. In her first plate appearance of the year, Belog banged an RBI double in the bottom of the first, which led to three more Warrior runs. And in the bottom of the fourth Belog snagged a bullet off the bat of a Maverick hitter at third base and fired a dart to Morgan Moseley at first for a double play in the top of the third inning.
"It was all gas, no brakes," Belog said with a smile. "It felt good to be on the field again. I didn't feel nervous at all. It was just so nice being out there. I felt so comfortable, so at home."
Throughout, the vocal third baseman helped Churchill bring the energy with her uplifting positive leadership, cheering on her teammates after great defensive plays, pepping up Aloha's pitchers, getting the dugout loud. After Belog's double play, senior catcher Gabby Fritz gunned down a Maverick trying to steal second. Later, the backstop made an awesome sliding catch of a foul pop-up near the Aloha dugout, sprinting over, sliding and snagging the sky-high pop up just in front of the fence in the fourth. Churchill made a crazy snatch on a smoked ball back up the middle, ran left, lunged her glove and grabbed it at full speed in the fifth. After every play, there was Belog celebrating her teammate.
"I want my team to know I always have their backs," Belog said. "I love hyping my team up. When they're hyped up, I'm hyped up and we all play well. I'm just so proud of everybody because we haven't played like that in a while."
Two weeks ago Churchill said she "couldn't wait" for her infield teammate to return and it was easy to see why as Belog showed no signs of rust.
"It was fun to have our twin powers back together," Belog said with a smile. "We have a great senior class that's ready to lead and make sure everyone is on track and ready to go each game."
Aloha had seven runs on only three hits but seven errors that aided Mountainside's 10-run win. Maverick junior pitcher Kacie Schmidt came on in relief just one out into the top of the first and went the rest of the way. After a two-run triple by Churchill made it 12-7 in the bottom of the second, Schmidt retired 13 of the next 14 hitters she faced. Schmidt and Cochell are two of five Mavericks who played varsity ball as freshmen two years ago at Southridge before transferring to Mountainside last year. The core actually played JV as sophomores because Mountainside didn't have a varsity team yet and dominated that level. They were club players competing against foes that weren't even close talent-wise. But the time together helped build chemistry and alleviated the pressure that high school softball can produce.
"It was odd, but playing JV was kind of a breath of fresh air," Cochell said with a smile. "It was cool winning every game. Now we have more competition, better pitchers. But (playing for Southridge) gave us more experience. Going from JV to varsity is completely different. It was nice having that first year to see what the competition is like."
Metro is back to Beaverton-area only schools with Sunset looking like a true title contender while Westview and Jesuit try to get their young players up to speed. The Mavericks have the talent to contend, for sure, even as the conference newcomers.
"Some people have said we'll be at the bottom (of Metro), but I believe we'll be at the top," Cochell said. "We're definitely going to stay up there. We're ready if we put our all into it. We're not peaking now, but we hope to later in the season."
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