The Spartans cruise to a six inning win in the cold, wind, and rain at Hillsboro Stadium.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hilhi's Zoe Richman takes a cut during the Spartans' game against The Dalles March 23 at Hillsboro Stadium.Spring has arrived. Well, at least the sports have.

On a day in which the temperature failed to reach 40-degrees, the Hilhi Spartans softball team persevered and ultimately overcame the elements in an 11-1 victory over The Dalles/South Wasco County/Dufur/Sherman March 23 at Hillsboro Stadium.

Spartan standout pitcher Payton Goodrich struck out nine in six innings of action, while collecting a single, double, and three RBIs at the plate. In addition to Goodrich, Hillsboro's MacKenzie Staub finished 2-for-2 with a single, double, an RBI and two walks, and senior outfielder Zoe Richman added a triple and an RBI to help pace the Sparts.

Hilhi head coach Stacey Hutchinson was pleased with her team's performance, and was equally pleased with how they did such in the type of cold, wet and windy conditions that test even the best's mettle.

"I thought overall we approached the game well considering the weather and all," said the coach. "It's the first time we've really been exposed to conditions like that, so it was good to experience it and adjust. I thought Peyton did a nice job of handling and still being able to throw her pitches."

The same could not be said for the team from The Gorge, whose pitcher, Bailey LeBreton, struggled with control primarily due to the cold, wet conditions. After shutting-out the Sparts in the first inning, Hilhi struck for two runs in the second, third, and fourth innings to build a 6-1 lead and cruise to a 10-run rule win with five runs in the sixth.

The Spartans used the bulk of their roster in the game, substituting in the fourth inning in an effort to get what Hutchinson believes to be a deep roster as much experience as possible in the season's run-up to league play.

"Our approach in the preseason is to see a lot of different people in different spots and making sure everyone is getting innings and experience and comfort in the game," said Hutchinson. "In every game we've made switches in the fourth inning because we want kids to get that playing time.

"Going forward it will look a little different when we get into league."

Hilhi got their first two runs in the second when after walks to Natalee Dold and Sydney Lierman, Dold scored from third on a wild throw from the catcher back to the pitcher, then Rainy Dold doubled in Lierman and it was 2-0 Sparts.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hilhi's Payton Goodrich follows through following a pitch against The Dalles March 23 at Hillsboro Stadium.The Dalles made it 2-1 in the top of the third, when and error, a stolen base and a ground out put a runner on third before a wild pitch put the visitors on the board. But the Spartans responded in their half of the inning, when after Staub walked to start the bottom half of the inning, Richman hit a two-out triple for Hilhi's third run of the game, then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-1.

The Sparts tacked-on two more in the fourth when a Staub double drove in Kylee McCrea, then Staub crossed for Hilhi's sixth run when Goodrich singled to right.

Hillsboro ended the game early in the sixth when a series of errors, coupled with two walks and two more hits — from Goodrich and Natalee Dold — plated the eleventh run and ended the game 11-1.

The win was the second of the early season for the Spartans and another step for a team Hutchinson feels has a real chance to make a mark on their league competition.

"We have high expectations this year," said Hutchinson. "I was just talking to someone about this cool mix of upper and lower classmen, and they all have experience in their own ways."

Hilhi returns four seniors, three of which started all four years, and offer a group of sophomores who started their entire freshmen campaigns, and incoming competitive freshmen that have their coach excited about their prospects.

"So it's a cool mix where we can do a lot of things and move a lot of people and still be really strong," Hutchinson said. "So we're excited and I feel like this is the first time in a few years that we've really had a lot of depth."

Hutchinson will lean heavily on Goodrich, who's signed a letter-of-intent to pitch for the Oregon State Beavers next school year.

"Peyton is a big piece of our team," said the coach. "In the circle she takes ownership of leading the team and you could see it tonight in comparison to other pitchers you might see in the rain. She's not afraid, and the girls feed off of her."

In addition to their ace, the Spartans will count on Richman's bat, Staub's energy both in the field and at the plate, and an overall group of seniors and strong underclassmen that Hutchinson's come to believe in.

"Senior leadership is great, and that's helpful, but we also have a lot of strong personalities that can take over at any time," Hutchinson said. "It's hard to make the lineup, because when I look down, no matter what I have good players. It's really exciting so we do have high expectations, but we know that only comes with competing and working hard on the field."

The Spartans were scheduled to compete in the Milwaukie High School Spring Break Tournament March 26-27 at Hood View Park in Clackamas.

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