Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
CENTRAL POINT — In its season opener, the Crater softball team picked up right where it left off.
Unfortunately for the Comets, the 2011 season didn't exactly end on a happy note.
Crater committed four errors, three coming in a costly sixth inning, en route to a 10-4 loss to Grants Pass in Southern Oregon Hybrid play on Friday.
The defeat immediately brought back memories of the Comets' 8-3 loss to Roseburg in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs last season. In that game, Crater made all five of its errors in a brutal fifth inning.
"It's a little bit of a monkey on our back," Crater head coach Chris Arnold said. "Last year, of course, we had our defensive collapse in the playoffs with Roseburg. We had a moment there and we talked about that at the beginning of the season and how our approach defensively at practice needed to change a little bit. We've done some things differently, but today we fell victim to some of those past deficiencies defensively."
The Comets (0-1, 0-1 SOH) will have to make some quick adjustments: They play South Medford in a doubleheader at noon today.
Rashaun Sells finished 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI and Anna Coveney was 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Cavers (2-1, 1-0 SOH), who took the lead in the sixth inning and tacked on five insurance runs in the seventh.
Stephanie Norrick hit a two-run single and Coveney added a two-run double in the final frame.
"Grants Pass did a tremendous job putting balls in play today," Arnold said. "Hats off to them for continuing to press us into making defensive plays that we didn't make.
"The way we handled our defensive mistakes wasn't conducive to our team as far as shaking things off and moving on. We kind of dwelled on some of those things and mentally that really collectively hurt us today."
Grants Pass had been picked to finish fourth in the coaches preseason poll, while Crater was tabbed second.
Rachel Ray went 3-for-4, Kassi Murphy 2-for-3 with a run, Sierra Eld 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run and Allie Winningham 2-for-3 for Crater, which was without three key players.
The Comets finished with 12 hits.
"I know our team and I know we can communicate a lot better than we did today," Ray said. "And I think we got down on ourselves a little bit too early even when (Grants Pass) got up by one run. It was just one run. We know we can get that back. We've come back from ballgames like that before and won in one inning. I know we can do a lot better next time."
Crater senior pitcher Renee Murphy — who has signed to play at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz. — went the distance, allowing seven hits and five walks and striking out 12.
Grants Pass freshman Amy Robinson, the winning pitcher, replaced starter Taylor Thomas in the bottom of the second inning after Thomas allowed four hits and three run in the inning. Robinson finished with five strikeouts and no walks.
The Cavers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a Sells run-scoring single and Lexi Pittman's RBI double.
The Comets came alive in the bottom of the second, taking a 3-2 lead after run-scoring hits by Kassi Murphy, Caitlyn Medina and Eld. Renee Murphy's sacrifice fly in the fourth made it 4-2.
Timely performances by Grants Pass — and errors by Crater — did the Comets in. Well-placed Caver hits went over outstreched arms, through legs and in spaces unoccupied by Comets in the sixth inning.
"It was nice," Grants Pass head coach Donnie Bellum said. "We got down a little bit there and it was nice to see our kids not hang their heads and get down on themselves and really battle back."
The Cavers made two double plays in the win.
Grants Pass 200 003 5 — 10 7 1
Crater 030 100 0 — 4 12 4
R. Murphy and Medina; Thomas, Robinson (2) and Merritt. W — Thomas (2-0). L — R. Murphy (0-1). 2B — GP: Pittman, Coveney
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org