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Championship dreams

Glencoe coach Jacy Schmidt remembers all too well the last time her Crimson Tide softball team faced Crater.

"They played an almost perfect game in the field," Schmidt said. "They smacked the heck out of the ball and were aggressive hitters."

That last meeting came almost a year ago in the Class 5A state championship game at the Oregon State University Softball Complex in Corvallis, which Crater won 7-5 for its first state softball title.

The two teams will meet again on Saturday at the same location with the same stakes — a state championship — on the line.

"We definitely expect that high intensity game again this year," Schmidt said.

The two teams have followed a similar pattern back to the state title game.

Both entered the 2008 campaign having lost significant senior contributors but have infused young talent with a battle-tested group of upperclassmen.

And both enjoy the luxury of an outstanding two-person pitching rotation.

"It's always good to work against a team you know," Crater coach Chris Arnold said. "We know a lot about Glencoe and they know a lot about us. It should be a fairly pure softball matchup. The girls are very excited."

Crater (20-8), which finished second to Ashland in the Southern Sky Conference, had the difficult task of replacing the Class 5A pitcher of the year (Ashleigh Cuddie) and Class 5A player of the year (Haley Hevern).

But the Comets, with seven new varsity players this season, have offset those losses with contributions from three freshmen — catcher Sarah Haga, designated player Tara Ruvalcaba, and right fielder Dennae Grant — and steady production from all-state performers in senior center fielder Emily Morrill, the Southern Sky Conference player of the year, and second baseman Ashleigh Larson.

"We have a lot of kids new to the varsity level," Arnold said. "That, combined with our senior leaders, makes us hungry. They have that dream (of a state title)."

Pitchers Brittany Reeves, a junior, and senior Breyanna Reed have provided stability in the circle for the Comets. Reed started the season on a tear with 41 strikeouts, a 5-0 record and a 0.31 ERA through eight games before injury sidelined her.

Reeves stepped into the role as staff ace and, with Reed back at full strength, it's a formidable duo.

"I love both our pitchers," Arnold said. "They complement each other so well. That's definitely right there at the top of our list of why we've had success."

The same goes for the Tide.

Glencoe (25-5) enters Saturday's contest sporting a 19-game winning streak and spent the majority of the season as the state's No. 1-ranked team after finishing 20-1 in the Northwest Oregon Conference.

The Tide also benefit from a deep pitching staff that includes Northwest Oregon Conference pitcher of the year and senior Jordyn Brown (11-1, 0.65 ERA through regular season) and sophomore Sloan Anderson (10-4, 0.54 ERA through regular season).

Anderson tossed a two-hitter in Glencoe's 1-0 win over Century in the semifinals and the Tide have allowed just one run in three playoff games.

"That's been a definite key to our success," Schmidt said. "It's been nice having two pitchers with fairly equal stats but throw a little bit different."

Leading Glencoe offensively are freshmen Jordan Kreiger, who was hitting .393 entering the semifinals and Alyssa Gillespie at .359.

Kreiger and Gillespie have helped fill the void left by conference player of the year Stephanie Vanoudenhaegen and Brittnee McNeely.

"The people who have filled in have not quite filled their shoes to the extent they (Vanoudenhaegen and McNeely) were, but they've done a good job," Schmidt said. "The girls have really played well with that pressure (of being the No. 1 team). We've kind of felt like we've had a target on our back the whole year."

It'll be Glencoe doing the targeting come Saturday.

"They are a team that is not going to quit," Arnold said of Glencoe, which fell behind 7-1 in last year's game before rallying. "There's a little extra incentive for them this year."

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com

Pitchers Brittany Reeves, left, and Breyanna Reed are among the standouts that have Crater aiming for a back-to-back Class 5A state softball championships. - Jamie Lusch