Wilsonville softball falls 2-0 to Pendleton/Griswold in 5A title game
There's no way to sugarcoat it — the Wilsonville softball team didn't get everything it wanted out of the just-completed spring season.
But the Wildcats did get a lot — a whole lot — out of their 2022 campaign.
They won the Northwest Oregon Conference with a perfect 17-0 record. They strung together 20 consecutive wins, including three straight in the Class 5A state playoffs. They earned the state's second seed, their team's first-ever state championship berth and laid claim to the title of best Wilsonville team ever.
In the end, the Steve Harms-coached Wildcats did not win the state championship June 4 — they dropped a 2-0 decision to top-seeded Pendleton/Griswold at Jane Sanders Stadium on the University of Oregon campus — but left proud of their season and dedicated to their teammates.
"I think this group is special because we all came together for one common goal all year," said senior pitcher Maddie Erickson, who threw a complete game, limiting Pendleton/Griswold to one earned run on four hits and three walks while striking out nine. "We've been mowing them down game by game with the goal of (winning) state."
"This team has come a long way since I played my freshman year," said senior second baseman Natalie Adams, who made two assists in the contest. "Honestly, it's just the chemistry. These girls get along so well and we just love each other so much."
"I just think we have a really good team community," said sophomore catcher Madeline Holly, who caught Erickson's four-hitter. "We all support each other a lot."
"This team is really special," added junior Anna Jardin, who picked up her team's lone hit in the championship. "We always have each other's back. Anytime we get down, we're always hyping each other up."
With the loss, Wilsonville saw its 20-game winning streak snapped and ended its year with a 27-4 overall record after winning the NWOC. Pendleton/Griswold, meanwhile, ended its year on a 10-game winning streak and finished with a 28-2 record after winning the Intermountain Conference.
They key to Saturday's state championship game — played in light rain showers in Eugene — was Pendleton senior pitcher Sauren Garton. While the Wildcats nicked Garton for four runs earlier in the year — a 9-1 Wilsonville victory in early April — she was nearly untouchable in the title contest.
Garton, a righthander, threw all seven innings for the Buckaroos, shutting out the Wildcats on just one hit and four walks while striking out 17.
"She's definitely a tough pitcher," Jardin said. "She's got movement, she's fast (and) she's definitely tough."
"I think she did a great job of knowing that we were going to swing and she was baiting us and throwing out of the zone," Erickson said. "It's hard to hit balls that are out of the zone and we were swinging at them."
Indeed, both pitchers held sway most of the game and made sure that offensive opportunities were few and far between. That said, Erickson very nearly got her team on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning when she led off with a first-pitch liner to center that Bucks' senior Daisy Jenness dropped; Erickson then stole second base.
But Garton bore down and got the next three batters in order, two of those on strikeouts, to keep the Cats scoreless.
Pendleton/Griswold saw its first chance come in the bottom of the third when Jenness led off with a bunt single and was bunted to second by freshman Ella Sams before Erickson walked senior Chloe Taber and Garton back-to-back to load the bases. But Bucks' senior Jaden Samp grounded to Adams next and she threw out Jenness at the plate. After that, sophomore Melanie Boatman hit a sinking line drive into right field, but Wilsonville sophomore Callie Weaving raced in to make a running, sliding catch that kept the Bucks scoreless.
But after another 1-2-3 Wilsonville at-bat in the fourth — including two more Garton strikeouts — Pendleton/Griswold broke through. With two outs, Bucks freshman Josie Jenness hit a sharp single down the third base line, then took second when Cats junior left fielder Taylor Hadden failed to field the ball cleanly. Daisy Jenness then came through with a bloop single down the left field line that scored Josie Jenness for a 1-0 lead.
Wilsonville tried to answer in the fifth when sophomore Mary Matthews and Erickson worked Garton for two-out walks, but Garton struck out Adams to end the threat.
After Garton set Wilsonville down in order in the top of the sixth — including two more Garton strikeouts — Pendleton/Griswold tacked on its second run in the bottom of the frame. Senior Faith Broadfoot kicked things off with a one-out walk, stole second, then scored when Weaving dropped Josie Jenness' line drive into right-center field.
In its final at-bat, Jardin stepped up for a one-out infield single, but Garton answered the way she had all game, striking out the side to seal the third state championship in school history.
Despite the loss, the Wildcats chose to focus on the many superlatives of their 2022 season.
"I think that coming to practice every day to get something out of it, but having fun at the same time is where it's at," Erickson said. "There's a quote in the band room on the wall that says 'Invest yourself in all that you do. There's fun in being serious.' And I believe this group is able to be serious and have fun and get better together, and I think that's the best thing you can do. This is a family."
"We play for each other and that's how you play for a team — you play for each other," Adams added. "This team will be back. They'll be back and we'll come back to cheer them on."
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