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Comets clinch SOC crown

No. 4-ranked Crater remains undefeated with twin-bill sweep of Roseburg

CENTRAL POINT ' It wasn't as if the Roseburg softball team didn't do everything pretty well on Saturday.

Crater, like the rest of the Southern Oregon Conference can attest to, just did everything better.

The fourth-ranked Comets pounded out 10 hits in the 6-0, Game — win and Janelle Cristofaro pitched a no-hitter for a 2-0 triumph in the nightcap that clinched the outright SOC crown for Crater ' its first piece of the conference title since 1993.

Cristofaro (8-0), who struck out 11 and moved her SOC streak of no earned runs to six games, pitched to one batter over the minimum and was a first-inning walk away from a perfect game.

She finished off the game in style by fanning the Indians' top three hitters in the order.

— This is very big for me, said the junior pitcher of her conference-clinching performance. I was just trying to get through one inning at a time.

I didn't even know I had a no-hitter until after the game.

Roseburg came into the contest tied with South Medford for second in the SOC at 7-3, three games back of the Comets.

The Indians had solid pitching performances out of Kim Posey (Game 1) and Krissy Smith (Game 2), but couldn't come up with the offense to support the two.

Those (Crater pitchers) threw the ball well, said Roseburg head coach Tony Campos. I don't think our pitchers did a bad job. We got beat by a very good team today.

Crater is every bit as good as I thought they'd be at the start of the season.

Crater, picked to finish third in a preseason conference coaches poll, moved to 20-0 overall and 12-0 in the SOC.

Any jitters entering the key conference twin bill were erased with senior Jenni Bittle on the hill.

The hurler gave up four hits and improved to 12-0 on the season.

Bittle's job was made easier when battery-mate Justine Bettencourt blasted a three-run home run over the left-field fence in the third inning.

Bettencourt's first-ever homer broke up a scoreless tie and sank Roseburg's hopes of staying close with the Comets.

No question (Bettencourt's homer) lifted a huge burden, said third-year Crater head coach Chris Arnold. Not only for the pitchers but it got our bats a little more fine-tuned.

The Comets turned offensive again in the fifth.

Ashley Shuck singled sharply off Posey's leg to lead off. The pitcher stayed in the game and Bettencourt followed with an RBI double. Cristofaro then smacked a run-scoring single for a 5-0 lead and raced home from third two batters later on a first-and-third double-steal attempt.

Bettencourt, who finished with a game-high four RBIs in the opener, has been a major factor in the success of two of the state's top pitchers.

The junior backstop calls the pitches with Bittle and Cristofaro and began to pick up steam after Crater's doubleheader sweep of North Medford two weeks ago.

I told her (North Medford) was going to test her (throwing ability), said Crater assistant Ron Craft of North's penchant for stolen bases. She was really dialed in that day.

Justine kind of turned a corner after that.

Cristofaro picked up the offensive slack in the nightcap with two runs and a 3-for-3 performance at the plate.

She started the fourth with a double off the wall in left-center field, moved to third on a Bittle groundout and scored on Sutherland's sharply hit single.

Roseburg center fielder Denay Martin's legs and glove almost helped the Indians out of a jam in the sixth.

The junior made a diving grab on a Bettencourt liner, then, two batters later with Cristofaro now on first following a single, Martin chased down a ball heading into the gap off the bat of Bittle for the second out of the inning.

Sutherland put one where the speedy Martin couldn't reach on the very next pitch, however, doubling off the left-field wall to score Cristofaro with the final run.

Sutherland finished with a pair of hits in Game 2 and knocked in both Comet runs.

Roseburg (15-7, 7-5 SOC) closes out SOC play with a crucial home doubleheader against playoff-hopeful Eagle Point on Saturday.

The Comets, who wrap up their SOC slate Saturday against South Medford, hope to maintain focus on closing out the season strong.

That's the big question mark and concern, said Arnold. The last couple years we've faded down the stretch. Now we have to see if we can maintain that focus.

FIRST GAME

Roseburg..................................000 000 0 ' 0 4 1

Crater......................................003 030 x ' 6 10 0

Posey, Curry (6) and Johnston; Bittle and Bettencourt. W ' Bittle (12-0). L ' Posey. 2B ' R: Johnston. C: Bauer, Bettencourt. 3B ' R: Campos. HR ' C: Bettencourt (1).

SECOND GAME

Roseburg..................................000 000 0 ' 0 0 1

Crater.......................................000 101 x ' 2 7 0

Smith and Johnston; Cristofaro and Bettencourt. W ' Cristofaro (8-0). L ' Smith. 2B ' C: Cristofaro, Sutherland.

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Crater pitcher Jenni Bittle prepares to deliver against Roseburg in the first game of their doubleheader. Bittle got the win to improve to 12-0 on the season. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman