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Cougars felled 8-1 by Waldport in first state playoff berth in more than a decade

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais senior Veronica Esquivel struck out 10 batters and gave up two earned runs and five hits in the Cougars' 8-1 loss to the Waldport Irish in the first round of the 2A/1A softball playoffs.The Gervais softball team's first state playoff season in more than a decade came to a close Monday, May 20, after the Cougars lost an 8-1 contest to the Waldport Irish in the first round of the 2A/1A state tournament.

Gervais (13-14, 10-5 Special District 2) earned the fourth and final playoff berth coming out of the league standings, breaking an 11-year playoff drought since the Cougars' last postseason appearance in 2008.

Gervais had a tough draw against the Irish (17-6, 12-2 SD4), who entered the playoffs on a seven-game win streak and had won 13 of its previous 14 games.

Despite a strong pitching performance from senior Veronica Esquivel, who struck out 10 batters and gave up five hits and two earned runs over six innings, Waldport was able to slowly pull away over the course of the game.

The Irish took the opening lead in the bottom of the first inning, using a walk and a single to put a runner in scoring position. Esquivel struck out the next two batters, but a wild pitch allowed Waldport to plate a run before the Gervais pitcher recorded the third strikeout to end the inning.

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais sophomore Alexa Rutledge scored the team's lone run of the game, driven home on a double from teammate Abigail Saalfeld in the fifth inning.The Cougars put their own runners on base in each of the next three innings, but had trouble converting those opportunities into runs against Irish pitcher Kyra Pickner, who struck out 12 and gave up five hits. Meanwhile, Waldport continued to tack on runs in the second and third to build their advantage to 4-0.

The Cougars picked up their lone run in the top of the fifth when sophomore Alexa Rutledge reached base on a dropped third strike and advanced to third on a deep single to left field by Esquivel.

Senior Abigail Saalfeld followed with a double to bring home Rutledge, but Esquivel was thrown out attempting to score on the play. Waldport plated three more in the bottom of the inning and one in the sixth to bring the game to its final margin.

Saalfeld led the team offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Lex Luna, Natali Barrera and Esquivel each logged hits in the game as well.

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