Crater back in title game
CENTRAL POINT — It was far from Brittany Reeves' best performance of the season.
It was, however, one of her most satisfying.
The Crater senior pitcher battled through control issues early in the Class 5A state semifinal game against The Dalles Wahtonka, but she finished in her usually dominant manner — and received consistent support from her teammates in the process — as the two-time defending state-champion Comets secured a third straight trip to the state title game with an 8-4 victory on Tuesday at Don Faber Memorial Field.
"It's just a really great accomplishment for us seniors who have been back (to the state title game) three times now," an emotional Reeves said. "With every team, each year, it means something different. It's an amazing thing."
For the third straight season, Crater (17-12) will meet Glencoe for the Class 5A title. The Comets defeated the Crimson Tide 7-5 in 2007 and 3-2 last season.
Glencoe (28-2), the No. 1 seed from the Northwest Oregon Conference, defeated Pendleton 2-1 in eight innings to reach Saturday's title game at the OSU Softball Complex.
Crater is searching to become the first team in the state to win three straight titles since Harrisburg won the Class 2A/1A state titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
"It's really exciting," said Crater sophomore catcher Sarah Haga. "Just to make it back this year, we're really fortunate and really excited. Definitely, we're just as ready to go back."
To get there, Crater had to show its resolve against TDW (26-4), twice overcoming one-run deficits. Reeves struggled early but adjusted to hold the Eagle Indians to just three hits and no runs in the final four innings.
TDW took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when leadoff hitter Amy Krol reached second on a throwing error, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Brianne Stephens' single to right.
Crater knotted the score in the bottom of the inning on Kayla Hopkinson's sacrifice fly that scored Dennae Grant. The Comets took a 3-1 lead in the second when Haga doubled and Taylor Mackey hit a two-run home run to center field.
The Eagle Indians recaptured momentum in the third when starting pitcher Rylee Parke hit a three-run home run to left field to give TDW the 4-3 edge.
Crater tied it again in the fourth when Mackey reached with a leadoff single to right and Emily Medina drilled an RBI double to right-center field.
The Comets took advantage of Eagle Indians mistakes in the fifth to take the lead for good.
Hopkinson started the inning by reaching first on an error at short. She stole second and scored the go-ahead run on Haga's single to center. Haga later scored on a throwing error.
"We try talking about being even keel, not showing frustration, and focusing on the task at hand," Crater coach Chris Arnold said. "They certainly did that tonight at the plate. Our kids did a great job of having quality at-bats, staying focused and making adjustments. To do that takes a lot of mental toughness."
Crater added two insurance runs in the sixth behind a two-RBI triple by Medina, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup.
"Crater is well coached, well disciplined," TDW coach Steve Garrett said. "They took advantage of breaks, and we didn't, and that's how you win ballgames. We made some mistakes, and a team like that will make you pay for them."
Reeves earned her 16th win of the season by going seven innings, striking out four and walking one.
The Eagle Indians put their first two batters on with singles in the fourth, but Reeves got out of the jam and was in control from there.
"I had a hard time finding the strike zone today," Reeves said. "I made my pitches hitable, but I tried to keep them spinning a lot so the girls could field them easily and make outs for me."
It was another frustrating end for TDW at the hands of Crater. The Eagle Indians lost 3-2 to the Comets in the state semifinals last season after the game was called in the sixth due to rain.
"It (coming to Central Point) is starting to get old," Garret said with a laugh.
A yearly trek to Corvallis, however, will likely never get old for the Comets.
"We want to make it a tradition that we go back every year," Reeves said.
The Dalles Wahtonka 103 000 0 — 4 5 2
Crater 120 122 x — 8 11 4
Parke and Barrett; Reeves and Haga. W — Reeves (16-7). L — Parke. 2B — C: Haga. HR — TDW: Parke; C: Mackey (2).
Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org