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Tigard opens the Class 6A state playoffs with a 9-1 win over South Salem on Monday

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard High School junior Lexi Klum smiles toward the Tigard dugout after hitting a third-inning double during the Tigers' 9-1 state playoff win over South Salem.TIGARD — After dropping its final two games of the regular season, the Tigard High School softball just might have been lacking a bit of confidence going into its state playoff opener.

It also likely didn't help to see South Salem grab an early 1-0 lead in the postseason contest.

But all of that changed — in a really big way.

The Tigers exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the third inning on their way to scoring a 9-1 win over the Saxons in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Monday at Tigard High School.

"It was a big win. This was super important," said Tigard junior Lexi Klum, who had both a home run and a double in the big inning. "We were lagging a little bit in the last part of league, so coming out here, and winning this game was big."

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard High School junior Emily Paulson puts the ball in play during the Tigers' 9-1 state playoff win over South Salem."We definitely needed this," said Tigard sophomore Sophia vanderSommen, who picked up the pithing win while also driving in a pair of runs. "We had some rough games last week, so this gives us some confidence back."

With the loss, South Salem, the No. 4 team out of the Mountain Valley Conference, and the No. 24 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 15-11. Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 9 team in the power rankings, improved to 20-8 on the season with the win. The Tigers also advance to the second round of the state playoffs, where they'll play at McMinnville in a game set to start at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

"This will give us confidence, that we can win," Klum said.

South Salem, in Monday's playoff opener, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, when freshman Emma Cordero singled in sophomore Alley Isaac.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard High School sophomore Sophia vanderSommen gets ready to fire in a pitch during the Tigers' state playoff win over South Salem."We knew that we just had to keep the energy up," Klum said of the early deficit. "Energy is key to our wins."

"I was thinking that we definitely needed to start hitting, and I knew we would," vanderSommen said.

They did, and Klum got it started.

Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Klum blasted a home run, her 13th of the season, over the fence in center field, tying the game at 1-1.

"That felt pretty good," Klum said with a smile. "At first I didn't think it was going to clear, so, when it did clear, that was pretty sweet."

"That was crazy," vanderSommen said. "That was a great start to the inning. Every time she gets on base, we keep it going."

And the Tigers definitely kept it going in the third inning. With out out in the frame, Tigard freshman Kani Korok doubled to left field. Junior Emily Paulson followed with a line-drive single to center field. Korok then scored on vanderSommen's single to left, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game, at 2-1.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard junior second baseman Abby Soderquist (left) looks to put a tag on South Salem junior Makenna McCool during Monday's state playoff game.One out after that, junior Elli Dardis and freshman Sera Reilly drew back-to-back walks on 3-2 pitches to load the bases. Junior Abby Soderquist then singled to right, driving in both freshman Makenna Reid, who reached base on a fielder's choice, and Dardis. Klum followed with a two-run double to left field. Then, after senior Maddie Hoover singled, Klum stole home on the front end of a double steal, giving Tigard an 8-1 advantage.

"The energy level shifted," Klum said. "We needed that."

Tigard got another run in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Paulson singled in junior Emily Otto, capping off the scoring in the Tigers' 9-1 victory.

"It was really good," vanderSommen said. "I know that with Makenna coming back from an injury, that we had to step up in some places, so it was good to do that and get a nice victory."

In getting the pitching win, vanderSommen, throwing the first five innings, gave up one run on four hits, while striking out one and walking none.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard players greet junior Lexi Klum (7) at home plate following her third inning home run in the 9-1 state playoff win over South Salem."It's my first playoff game starting, so it was a bit nerve-wracking, but it was fun," she said.

Reid, pitching the last two frames, allowed no hits, while striking out five and walking one.

"They did phenomenal," Klum said. "It's super big. Sophia has had to pitch a lot lately, because Makenna's been hurting, but she's back, so now we're ready to go."

Klum helped lead the offensive attack, going 2 for 4 at the plate with a double, a home run, a stolen base, two runs scored and three RBIs. Paulson went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. Hoover went 2 for 4 with a double and a stolen base.

McMinnville, the No. 2 team out of the Pacific Conference, and the No. 8 team in the power rankings, brings an overall record of 19-8 into Wednesday's second round game. The two teams met earlier this season, with Tigard getting a 4-2 win in a game played April 10 in McMinnville.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard's (from left) Makenna Reid, Emily Paulson and Laura Masters are all smiles following the Tigers' 9-1 win over South Salem in Monday's state playoff game.The winner of Wednesday's game will meet either Mountainside or Grants Pass in a state playoff quarterfinal game on Friday.

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