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Pitching, defense lead the way for St. Helens as the two local softball teams renew their rivalry

COURTESY PHOTO: JOHN BREWINGTON - Brea Paulson pitches for St. Helens on Wednesday as the Lions nail down a 7-2 league softball victory over visiting Scappoose.Round one of the newest Northwest Oregon Conference softball rivalry -- St. Helens versus Scappoose -- went to the Lions.

And it was pretty much by unanimous decision.

On a sunny Wednesday at St. Helens, the Lions took advantage of a handful of early Indians errors to get a fairly comfortable lead.

Then they rode sophomore Brea Paulson's complete game on the mound and their all-around more-successful base running to win 7-2.

It was the first counting softball meeting between the schools in years — the first of many to come because Scappoose has moved up to Class 5A from the 4A Cowapa League.

The Lions were eager to claim initial bragging rights, and they did so with probably their best overall performance of the season.

"We were on in every aspect of the game," St. Helens coach Miranda Little said. "It was just a great game. A fun game to coach."

It was, for sure, a most satisfying game for the Lion as well.

"Definitely," St. Helens sophomore catcher Jasmyne Pense said. "Our first league win, and being against Scappoose makes it even better.

"We were hyped about it all day, talking about it all day, just getting excited. We've been working hard for this game, and waiting to win."

The Lions took a 6-0 lead with three runs in the second and third innings — all coming on plays and throws to home plate that either got away from the catcher or that she wasn't able to handle.

"We came out really ready to take them on," Scappoose coach Catherine Baggett said, "but our nerves got the best of us the first couple innings. It was a lot of little things."

The other key factor was Paulson.

She mixed speeds and her pitch arsenal to keep the normally potent Scappoose offense off-balance most of the day.

"She kept us on our toes. We didn't bring our bats like we usually do," Baggett said.

"She pitched phenomenal," Little said. "Her changeup was on, and when it's on it just makes the game that much more fun and interesting, because she throws it for strikes."

Paulson needed only 35 pitches to get through the first four innings, which ended with St. Helens in the lead 7-1 (sophomore Zoey Ellis' double scored senior Payton Fisher for a Scappoose run in the fourth).

"I was using all my pitches, and they worked out really well," Paulson said. "I worked the outside corner, because the umpire was calling that pretty good and it was getting on them (the Indians), I think."

The St. Helens defense did the rest.

Pense threw out the first two Scappoose runners who tried to steal second (and the only two who would try). Pense also and later caught a pop near the backstop.

Sophomore third baseman Kamryn Hubbs and senior shortstop Taylor Dow made the necessary throws on well-hit ground balls.

And the defensive topper came in the top of the seventh, just as Scappoose began to seriously threaten and had the bases loaded with one out.

Fisher hit a hard line drive to right field. St. Helens senior Bailey Hamilton made the catch and threw home to Pense, who tagged out the runner trying to score from third. That completed a game-ending double play.

"Perfect way to end it," Little said. "That was one of our goals, to get a double play (like that). We hadn't done it yet.

"We did a lot of really good things on defense."

Another thing Little liked was that her team struck out just once (on its second at-bat).

"That means we were putting the bat on the ball," she said. "And we were hitting the ball hard, and when you do that, it forces the other team to make plays, and they (the Indians) ended up making mistakes that went in our favor.

"We just played a really good game. The girls were ready to play. They've been really focused this week on setting goals for each day, and they're holding one another accountable."

St. Helens improved to 3-7 overall and 1-2 in the NWOC. The Lions had lost 6-3 the day before at home to La Salle Prep. "But that was our best game of the season, until today," Little said.

Scappoose dropped to 3-7-1, 1-2. The Indians won on Tuesday 15-2 at Parkrose, with Ellis whacking her first high school home run over the fence and the Indians "hitting great, fielding great, pitching great," Baggett said.

The Lions and Indians will meet one more time in the regular season — May 3 at Scappoose.

"I'm looking forward to that," Paulson said.

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