No. 27 West Linn survives again with extra-innings win over No. 11 Tualatin
West Linn High softball's season has been quite a bit like the bloop single from junior Courtney Williams that saved it Wednesday, May 25.
The Lions started the year 1-17 and looked as if the season was on the way down for an easy out.
Instead, that floating single found its way to the grass for a hit, and No. 27 seed West Linn's season continued with a 5-3 win over league-rival No. 11 Tualatin in 10 innings.
Overall, the Lions are now 9-18 on the season, but they find themselves one of eight teams left standing in the Class 6A state tournament.
"I don't even know, we just really came together," Williams said of her team's turnaround. "We had some team changes and I think it made us stronger. We've kind of been through a lot this season so we became closer and worked harder."
West Linn has won eight of its last nine games, the lone loss a 5-4 defeat to No. 3 Oregon City.
Running the gauntlet in the second half of league play is no small accomplishment in the Three Rivers League, one that qualified all seven teams to the state tournament and saw six of them advance to the second round with 16 teams.
And the Lions didn't avoid league opponents in the postseason, either, having to play that second round at Tualatin on Wednesday, a team they split the season series with.
"We were like 50/50 on it," West Linn coach Gina Garvey said of her team's confidence coming into the matchup. "We knew we could beat them, but we knew it was going to be a hard game."
West Linn started it off on fire, though, getting a double from leadoff hitter Rylee Gaustad followed by a triple from Ava Sin.
Sin later scored on an infield single from Jenna Wheeler and the Lions were off and running.
However, the Timberwolves quickly responded with two runs themselves in the bottom of the first on singles from Kailyn Engels and Ava Diaz.
Defense took over from there as both sides continued to rip the ball, but always into the glove of a defender.
Tualatin finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth on a single to center from Remie Strahm, but West Linn had the response this time.
Rebecca Gomez singled to center to bring home a run. Chloe Dehlin rounded third as the go-ahead run, but was thrown out at home.
Defense took over again, sending the game into extras as the teams combined for three hits in innings 7-9.
In the 10th, teams start with a runner on second and Tualatin elected to intentionally walk Gaustad to start the frame.
The next two batters flew out and grounded out to the pitcher to keep the runners in place, bringing up Williams, who earlier made a diving catch at first base to end the seventh inning.
On the second pitch, Williams floated the ball into the space between right field and second with the runners going on contact, allowing both to score and give the Lions a 5-3 lead.
"I didn't see anything," Williams said of the pitch. "This was a crazy, emotional game and I just saw the pitch and I wanted to hit so I tried. Luckily it found a gap."
In the bottom half, Tualatin loaded the bases with no outs, but West Linn shortstop Cydney Hess caught a line drive and immediately tossed the ball to third to get the double play.
Tualatin grounded out to second on the next batter to close out the game and push the 9-18 Lions into the final eight of 6A.
"Our defense is killing it this year. I couldn't be more proud of my team," Williams said. "It is so much fun to watch them all play … it's the best part."
Getting here wasn't always a given, though, as Garvey explained some changes needed to be made both on and off the field.
"We got a new coach, we got some toxicity off our team and we just started playing," Garvey said. "We always knew we could do it, we just weren't doing it. Then we started hitting the ball."
For Williams, who entered the 10th inning 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, it was a mantra for the season: get out of her own head and just play ball.
"Courtney, she sometimes drives me crazy," Garvey said with a laugh. "She always has to be perfect, and if she's not she gets in her head. When I first got here, I told her, 'I don't know why you expect perfection when I don't expect perfection out of you.' … She stopped, got out of her head and she just took her anger out on the game -- and it worked."
Perfection wasn't what got West Linn into the quarterfinals, where it will play another TRL rival in No. 3 Oregon City on Friday. The two sides split this season in league play.
And perfection won't be needed there, but the Lions might have to come close in order to keep the dream run alive.
But for a team playing on borrowed time, no challenge ahead will be too large.
"We don't have anything to lose. If we lose, our season's done, and we're not ready to be done," Garvey said.
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