With three of the top five teams in 3A softball all in the same league, the competition is fierce for the Taft High School softball team. But they are proving they have just as good of shot as anyone at making a run at the state title.
Last week the Lady Tigers faced three top 10 teams in four games. Tuesday opened in a bout with No. 1 Clatskanie that ended in a 7-2 decision for the unbeaten Clatskanie Tigers. But Taft rebounded quickly with a 2-1 victory on April 24 over No. 9 Blanchet Catholic.
“The key to that win for us was our defense,” Taft head coach Sandy Stuart said. “We had a sleepy day on offense but our young defense that has struggled at times this season really did well. We had some excellent plays and didn’t get rattled with runners on base. I would say it was our best defensive game of the year so far.”
Junior Emma Coulter had another strong day pitching; only giving up two hits all game while striking out seven. Junior Hailee Danneker and freshmen Chloe Peterson both went 2-for-3 at the plate and Danneker scored once against the Cavaliers. Freshmen Addie Gates added a hit and scored the second and game deciding run on a sacrifice fly by Coulter. Sophomore Claira Tolan also had a double in the contest.
The Tigers kept the momentum going when they traveled to Rainier on April 26 and earned a commanding 5-0 win in game one of the doubleheader with the No. 4 ranked Columbians.
“We were very aggressive right off the bat and we put the ball in play a lot on offense,” Stuart said. “We did a great job fighting off pitches that we didn’t like and making their defense work. Our line up was able to put the ball in play with runners on base, which is what will get you runs if you are consistent.”
Coulter once again threw a gem, allowing just three hits and tallying four strikeouts.
“Emma pitched great all game and really kept their hitters guessing,” Stuart said. “We beat their ace pitcher in the first game so that felt good.”
Offensively Danneker was 1-for-3 with a towering home run. Sophomore Kayla Lininger went 3-for-4 and scored twice and Coulter was 1-for-4 with a run scored. Freshmen Olivia Coulter went 1-for-4 with a big two RBI hit early in the game and Peterson was 2-for-3 with a run scored.
The highs of game one were unfortunately turned to lows in the nightcap as the Columbians got revenge in the form of a 7-3 victory. Stuart said they faced the same problem they’ve faced all year in the twinbill format, which is getting used to Taft’s lone pitcher.
“We only have one pitcher, so their hitters got to face Emma for 14 innings,” Stuart said. “They also threw a second pitcher, who was slower than the first, and we had a hard time adjusting our timing with her. We also had a few more errors in the field that hurt us.”
Stuart said she is not a big fan of the doubleheader format for high school softball, but regardless, she was pleased with the effort from her team.
“Overall I was happy with our performance and I know it showed the players that regardless of rank, current record or scouting reports, we are a top level team and we can beat anyone on any given day with enough determination and drive,” Stuart said.
Boasting a No. 5 ranking in the OSAA standings, the Tigers are looking forward to post-season play in the coming weeks. But Stuart wants to make sure the girls are staying focused on the task at hand.
“We want to stay efficient and not slack off as we prepare to finish off the regular season,” Stuart said. “Hopefully we can fine tune our defense a little bit more and continue to gain confidence and momentum on offense.”