Trojans claim playoff victory in Simmons' 400th game
Kennedy softball head coach Walt Simmons' 400th game went the same way as the vast majority of the 399 that came before it — sound defense, opportunistic offense and a victory for the Trojans.
Opening the 2A/1A state playoffs after bypassing the first round, the No. 7 Kennedy Trojans used a nine-run barrage in the sixth inning to break open a 3-2 game and defeat the visiting No. 10 Oakland Oakers (20-5, 16-2 Special District 3) 12-2 on May 22 in Mount Angel.
The defending state champions, Kennedy (20-4, 16-0 SD2) advanced to the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year in Simmons' 281st career victory. In 16 seasons coaching high school softball — all with the Trojans — Simmons has won 70.3% of his game and made the state playoffs in all but three seasons, including six trips to the semifinals, two finals appearances, and the program's lone state championship last year won 10-0 over Pilot Rock.
Looking to defend that title, the Trojans got off to a strong start against an Oakland team that entered the playoffs with the state's sixth-best defense and only four losses, all of which came against playoff teams ranked in the OSAA top 10.
Kennedy took a quick lead in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore Hailey Arritola got on base with a walk and stole second to get into scoring position. Junior Emily Cuff followed, belting a ground ball through the infield and reaching first base on Oakland's lone error of the game, which allowed Arritola to score and Cuff to advance to second.
Back-to-back doubles from Grace Schaecher and Ellie Cantu brought in two more runs to make it a 3-0 game before the Oakers settled down and ended the inning. Oakland kept the Trojans scoreless through the next four frames and put two runs of their own on the board in the top of the fourth by opening with a walk and a double to put two runners in scoring position. Oakland brought them both home two batters later when junior Kelsie Collins singled to center field with one out to cut Kennedy's lead to 3-2.
It was the lone blemish in Schaecher's start on the mound. The junior pitcher went the full six innings, striking out nine while giving up six hits and the two earned runs to pick up the win.
After trading scoreless barbs in the fifth, Schaecher shut down the Oakers in the top of the sixth, leading to the Trojans' game-winning offensive surge in the bottom of the inning.
Arritola and Cuff got things rolling with back-to-back singles, followed by Schaecher getting hit by a pitch to load the bags. Cantu and Kelsey Kleinschmit hit two more singles to drive in a pair of runs while keeping the bases loaded, leading to a double from Elise Suing that drove in a pair of runs, making it an 8-2 game.
Oakland induced Rylie Newton to pop out before Sophia Carley drew a walk and advanced to second on defensive interference. Lydia Berning singled to score suing, bringing Arritola back up to bat, where she loaded the bases once again with another single. Cuff drove in Carley on the next at-bat, and Schaecher completed the 10-run victory with a sacrifice fly to center field to score Arritola.
Arritola finished the game going 2-of-3 at the plate with three runs scored. Cantu and Cuff each added two hits as well, and Cantu led the team with three RBIs.
The Trojans were scheduled to host the Glide Wildcats (18-7, 10-4 SD5) on Friday in the state quarterfinals. The Wildcats scored a 6-3 upset over No. 2 Cove/Union (16-7, 9-3 SD6) to earn the trip to Mount Angel. The winner moves on to the state semifinals, which was scheduled for May 28.
LEGACY OF SUCCESS
Playoff appearances: 13
Playoff record: 18-11
Championships: 1 (2018)
Semifinals: 6 ('04, '06, '10, '16, '17, '18)