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Patience at plate key for Lions going into Northwest Oregon Conference season

The long-awaited eruption the St. Helens softball team sought after at the plate was a product of patience, then power.

Led by Kaily Smith and Kamryn Hubbs, the Lions crushed host Corbett 19-7 on Tuesday, sending themselves into Northwest Oregon Conference play on a thunderous note.

In one game alone, the Lions bested their run total (18 coming into the nonleague finale) and moved their record to 2-5.

Four of St. Helens' nonleague games were against high-level Class 6A competition at the Mountainside/Jesuit tournament, hence some of the Lions' lower scores. But coach Miranda Little said her team displayed the sort of self-restraint against Corbett she's been preaching all preseason. The Lions were prudent but aggressive as they hunted fastballs hittable across the plate.

"The pitching was completely different from the Mountainside tournament, but the girls were more patient, which is good," Little said. "I think the reason we hit the ball so well was we were patient. The girls waited for the right pitch, and it worked in their favor."

Smith went 4 for 4 with a grand slam. Hubbs had an on-base percentage of 1.000. She reached on errors twice and had a double and a single. Little said Smith also made a phenomenal play in the outfield and almost threw a runner out at home.

Senior Taylor Dow, normally St. Helens' mainstay at shortstop, caught against Corbett for the first time and looked like a natural behind the dish.

"She looked fantastic. You couldn't even tell that she is not a catcher," Little said.

Sophomore Brea Paulson pitched "amazing" and did a great job driving in runs, the coach added.

St. Helens doesn't play again until Tuesday, when it takes on Hillsboro in its NWOC opener at home at 5 p.m.

Little said the Lions tend to play their best on the friendly confines of their home field, which should help against a Spartans squad that's pegged as a conference favorite.

"I'm very happy with the progress of my team," Little said. "This was the best game for us to have before we start league next week. We just need to work on fundamentals on defense a little bit, but we have been swinging the bat well, and I hope that that continues."

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