Newberg softball downs Century, 3-2
Close may not account for much in the win/loss column, but for the Century Jaguars softball program it's a step in the right direction, and that can't be undersold for a coach and group of girls working and improving on a daily basis.
Century lost to Newberg, 3-2, Friday evening, May 3, at Century High School. But while on the wrong end of what was ultimately a close game throughout, Jaguar head coach Emily Keagbine won't let the end result taint what has been a fun ride over the last couple of weeks, and throughout the year.
"The last two games we've played really good defense and it's definitely allowed us to stay in games," Keagbine said. "They've been working really hard, so all the credit to them, and they're starting to see what that hard work can mean on the field."
Keagbine is no stranger to success, having won a national championship at Linfield and earning the Vern Marshall Award given to the student-athletes who demonstrate the greatest tenacity and resilience. So she knows a little something about hard work, and can appreciate the time she's seen her athletes devote firsthand.
"We just give them the tools they need and then tell them we're going to do the best we can to help them succeed," the coach said. "They've really come together and our leadership has dramatically improved this season. They enjoy the work and I enjoy watching them work."
Unfortunately that work didn't earn them a "W" against the Tigers who scored the game's first two runs in the top of the fourth, then tacked-on what would amount to the game-winner in the fifth, thanks in large part to a couple Jaguar errors. Interim head coach Rick Church said the game-winning run was especially savory because it came as a result of his team staying the course despite long odds.
"We've talked about how important it is to pay attention to the small things and that obviously paid off tonight," Church said. "The girls have had some things go their way in recent games that have showed them that work pays off, and that's satisfying to see as a coach."
It's been an emotional time recently for the Newberg team. Head coach Angela Stutzman was forced to leave the team for medical reasons and suffered a heartbreaking loss during her absence. As a result, the girls — along with the coaching staff — has been carrying with them the burden that undoubtedly comes with such circumstances, but has remained steadfast in competing at a very high level.
"There has been a lot of emotion," Church said.
Newberg (7-2, 15-7) drew first blood in the fourth when Brooke Poff singled to start the inning then scored on a Sam Teran double to left field. Teran would score two batters later when senior Zimri Lemonds singled to center to put the Tigers up 2-0.
Century responded in their half of the fourth when Alexis Oronia and Samantha Shipley reached on errors, then Oronia scored on a Brylie Mannen sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.
The Tigers too responded in the fifth when Katy Evans reached on a two-out single, then advanced to third on two Century errors, the first of which was a simple miscommunication on what should've been the inning's third out. But with Evans at third, a passed ball allowed the sophomore to score, giving Newberg a 3-1 lead.
The Jaguars pulled within one in the inning's bottom half when Gavyn Shafer scored on an Adreanna Stratton single to center, but Century couldn't muster the necessary punch to even the score over the final two innings, resulting in the Newberg win.
Church was obviously pleased with the win, but also thought his team performed better than the score indicated, while giving the Jags credit for keeping it close.
"Today we did a lot better than the scoreboard showed," Church said. "We hit the ball well, but they played a pretty good game today and fielded a lot of those balls that normally drop in."
Now, with three games remaining and trailing first place Glencoe by two games in the Pacific Conference standings, the Newberg skipper is looking forward to another crack at the Tide who defeated the Tigers 8-0 in their first meeting April 19. While lopsided in appearance, Church said the outcome was a bit skewed by conditions beyond their control.
"We had very poor weather conditions the first time we played them," he said. "We've been playing really well, so we're looking forward to another shot at them."
And where do the Jags go from here? Back to work, but hopefully to the postseason — something Keagbine says they won't give up on.
"It's been our goal since the beginning and we were sitting pretty good, but this latest stretch has made it difficult on us," Keagbine said. "Yet, it will remain our goal until it's over."
Evans led Newberg at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, while pitcher Breanna Hilton pitched 5 innings, allowing one earned run while striking out nine.
Century was led by Shafer who also finished 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Sarah Gruber threw all seven innings for the Jags, allowing two earned runs on six hits.