The Pioneers used a four-run fifth inning to erase a 4-1 deficit against McNary and reach the semifinals for the first time since 1987

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Ashley Spencer's RBI-single scored Morgan Hornback with the go-ahead run, capping a four-run rally in the fifth inning that helped lift Oregon City to a 7-4 home win Friday over McNary.As Oregon City's Ashley Spencer stepped into the batter's box with runners at first and third in the fifth inning Friday, her only thought was, "A base hit is all I need."

The Pioneers had already scored three runs in the inning to pull even with McNary, and Spencer, the junior third baseman, was eager to extend the two-out rally.

Spencer took a called strike and then hit a bloop single just inside the third-base foul line, scoring Morgan Hornback with the go-ahead run in the Pioneers' 7-4 home win over the Celtics of Salem in Friday's OSAA Class 6A softball quarterfinals.

"It was an inside pitch and I pulled it," said Spencer, whose RBI-single gave the Pioneers a 5-4 lead. "It was just what we needed. It wasn't the best hit in the world, but I'll take it."

Zoie Iverson added a two-run triple in the sixth to pad Oregon City's lead and help send the top-ranked Pioneers (26-2) into the semifinals for the first time since 1987.

Next up: No. 5-ranked Westview (26-4) in a 5 p.m. game Tuesday at Oregon City.

"We have been strong all year," Pioneers coach Dave Adelhart said. Watching these girls practice, how hard they work, how excited they are to be on the field and play, we knew they had the tenacity and composure to stay in these games.

"Today, we really didn't start hitting the ball until the fifth inning, but we did it with two outs, which goes to show that this team does not give up. That's what good teams do -- they stay in the game."

McNary scored a run in the first inning, Oregon City answered with a run in the third, and then the Celtics scored three runs on three hits and two Pioneer errors in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead.

At that point, it looked as if the Mt. Hood Conference champions were in trouble, but the Pioneers stayed confident.

"We still had a lot of time left in the game," said Hornback, the junior pitcher and cleanup hitter. "We just knew that we had to go batter by batter.

"If we got one person on, we'd get her around and we'd get her in. That's the way we were thinking in the dugout. Against, with plenty of time left, we knew that we could score some runs."

With two outs, Allie Edwards drew a walk from McNary starter Faith Danner and scored on Isabelle Lewis' double to gap in left center.

After Iverson got hit by a pitch, putting the tying run on base, Hornback hit a fly ball down the first-base foul line that McNary right fielder Alexa Cepeda dropped for an error. Cepeda compounded the miscue by throwing the ball wide of third base, allowing Lewis and Iverson to score, tying the score at 4-4.

Jadwyn Parrish kept the rally going when she reached safety on an error by Danner, the pitcher, and Hornback advance to third, setting the stage for Spencer.

"I knew I needed to help my teammates who had worked to get on back with two outs," said Spencer, the eighth batter to come to the plate for Oregon City in the inning.

"We believe in our hitters," Adelhart said. "We think we have a great lineup and we probably made some errors that we normally don't make, but I think that was the girls being tense in this type of game.

"There was a lot of pressure, but then they relaxed and made the necessary adjustments at the plate."

Oregon City extended the lead to 7-5 in the sixth when Maddie Miller drew a one-out walk, Edwards reached on a bunt single, and both runners scored on Iverson's two-out triple to right.

In the seventh, Cepeda kept McNary's hopes alive with a one-out single, but then the game ended with a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play -- Hornback fanning Haley Ebner, and Lewis, the Pioneers' catcher, picking Cepeda off first base.

"We're super-excited," said Hornback, whose pitching line showed four runs (two earned) on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. "We're just thinking game by game.

"We've got one game in front of us. Win that we go on. Lose it, we're done. So, we definitely want to win."

By Jim Beseda
Sports editor
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