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Tigers defeat Lake Oswego 3-1, Grant in back to back games in non-conference play.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Newberg junior pitcher Kiley Harris gave up just two runs against Grant, and hit a solo shot midway through the game.

Ahead of its appearances in the Hawks Invitational and Nelson Invitational softball tournaments, Newberg put together a pair of impressive victories over Class 6A opposition to get its season started on the right foot.

On March 15, the Tigers defeated Lake Oswego 3-1 on the road. They followed that up with an even more impressive performance of the Portland Interscholastic League's Grant on March 17, winning 12-2 in five innings.

The win over Grant showcased the best of the Newberg team: solid pitching and an aggressive approach at the plate.

Pitching for the Tigers was junior Kiley Harris, who recorded eight strikeouts and five hits in the five innings played against the Generals. Junior Scarlett Olivas was the battery mate for the night.

Harris's big night didn't stop in the circle. The junior also hit for the cycle, going 4-for-4 from the plate including a solo homerun in the bottom of the fourth inning. Harris also recorded four RBIs in that time.

"We've been working on sitting back and driving line drives, not trying to hit home runs," NHS coach Ashley Thomas said. "We've talked about home runs (happening) by accident. When you just get a good solid hit, the ball is just going to go. That was a perfect example of that. She had good solid hits all day."

In addition to Harris's offense, the team also got contributions from senior Hayley Poff, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, and senior Brooke Allison who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

That well-rounded approach to the game could bring Newberg success when the Tigers hit league play. The Pacific Conference will have Sherwood and McMinnville staking their claims for the top spot and Thomas believes her team will be in the mix as well.

"(We need) hard work (and) playing together as a team," Thomas said. "We can have all the talent in the world, and we do have a lot of talent, but they have to mesh together as a team and build a team dynamic because that's what's going to really pay off in the long run. You just have to talk about believing we're going to win and that we're going to do well. Those three things -- hard work, playing together as a team and believing we're going to do what we need to do."

Thomas's leaders on the team will be senior lefthanded pitcher Serayah Neiss, last year's Pacific Conference pitcher of the year, and returning junior catcher Abby Carsley.

Despite having few practices together before the start of the season, Thomas said she is seeing the improvements and return to form after a string of pandemic-shortened or cancelled seasons.

"We actually had a couple girls come back that didn't play last year, so we've been working on getting the rust off," Thomas said. "But it's been a quick 10 practices before our first game. It was a quick turnaround, but you see their dedication at practice and their focus has shown, today for sure. It's a quick learning curve but they're stepping to it."

Newberg (2-0) will compete against Central Catholic (1-0) in the Hawks Invitational at Adrienne C. Nelson High School at 10 a.m. Monday, March 21 (results unavailable at press time).

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