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The momentum appeared to dramatically shift with one powerful swing of the bat.

The Dalles Wahtonka's Rylee Parke blasted a three-run home run off Crater's Brittany Reeves to give the Eagle Indians a 4-3 lead in the top of the third inning of the Class 5A semifinal game last Tuesday.

And Crater coach Chris Arnold watched with amusement from the dugout as Reeves, his senior pitcher, took a breath and went back to work.

Arnold had seen this scenario before.

The unflappable Reeves went on to limit The Dalles Wahtonka to just three hits over the final four innings of an 8-4 victory that propelled the two-time defending Class 5A champion Comets into their third straight title game.

It was a vintage performance for Reeves, who's displayed a remarkable ability to handle immense pressure in her Crater career.

"She's had some huge games," Arnold says, "but her last game against The Dalles Wahtonka wasn't her best. She had to overcome. I enjoy watching her struggle through things and coming out stronger on the other end. That's part of the battle. It's fun to watch."

Very rarely has Reeves not overcome such obstacles in her time as a Comet. Despite being thrust into the role of ace following an injury to senior pitcher Breyanna Reed last season, Reeves posted a 17-6 record, a 1.04 ERA and 170 strikeouts, which was third most in school history for a single season.

She eclipsed that mark this season with a school-record 190 strikeouts in 172 innings.

She is 16-7 with a 2.21 ERA and, offensively, is hitting .333 with 16 RBIs.

Many of her losses in the circle came against Crater's daunting preseason opponents as the Comets, who entered conference play with a 2-8 record, experimented with various lineups and Reeves adjusted to the pitching rubber being moved from 40 feet to 43 feet.

The change required Reeves to focus on developing off-speed pitches and movement.

Eventually, Reeves and the Comets (17-12) caught their stride, winning the Southern Sky Conference title with a 10-2 mark.

"The preseason was definitely difficult to deal with," the 18-year-old Reeves says. "But there was never a point in anyone's mind we wouldn't get through it."

Reeves has been especially effective in the playoffs, save for the semifinal game. Against Crater's first two opponents, Summit and Churchill, she allowed a combined seven hits while striking out 20 and walking just two. She tied a season high with 13 strikeouts against Summit.

"She's the kind of player who wants the ball," Arnold says. "Most successful pitchers are those kind of players — they want the ball. When she sets her jaw, she's a dominant pitcher."

Reeves says the impetus for her success is simple: attitude.

"Basically, I try to go into every game in the same mood, just very even-keeled, staying calm," says Reeves, a Western Oregon University signee.

That's not to say it's always been an easy approach for Reeves. She was a dominant pitcher through the youth ranks, but it wasn't until her junior season — when she became the primary pitcher — that she fully embraced the importance of the game's mental aspects.

"I've had to struggle with it through my years," she says. "My freshman and sophomore years, I had a terrible temper when I was pitching. I wouldn't be able to finish games because of my attitude. I've had to take a lot away from that. That three-run home run (against The Dalles Wahtonka), I wouldn't have been able to come back from. I've had to learn through those types of experiences.

"Last year is when I decided I need to figure everything out and be there for my team rather than myself."

No question, Reeves has been there for her team. She's assumed the role of mentor for Crater's young arms in junior Mariah Lines and freshman Renee Murphy.

Reeves says more than discussing various pitches, she tries to relay to the younger pitchers the importance of remaining calm, turning frustrations into positives, and preparing for opponents — another aspect of her game she's developed this season.

Reeves is consumed by details. She and sophomore catcher Sarah Haga study everything from how a batter is standing in the box (to determine confidence level) to how the batter swings while warming up (to determine what type of pitch the batter expects).

"She's very mentally tough and really determined," Haga says. "She's not afraid of any batter and knows that she can go after them.

"She's one of the best pitchers I've ever caught for. Our pitchers are going to have big shoes to fill (next season)."

Reeves has the opportunity today to help the program to its third straight state title — a feat accomplished just three times since the sport's inception in 1979. Churchill owns the state record with four consecutive titles spanning from 1980-83.

"It's really great to know I've been able to get back my senior year," Reeves says. "It's been a great senior year to have. I just love my team."

The Comets meet Glencoe for the third straight year at the OSU Softball Complex. Crater defeated the Crimson Tide 7-5 for the 2007 title and 3-2 last season.

Crater pushed across the go-ahead run last year on an illegal pitch in the sixth inning and made the final out of the game when center fielder Emily Morrill gunned down a runner at third just before the tying run reached home.

"Of course they are excited," says Glencoe coach Jacy Jukkala of her team's approach to the rematch. "Especially with the way the game ended last year, they were pretty disappointed. For our seniors, they've been looking forward to this all year because they did go through all the emotions of a tough loss."

Glencoe (28-2) will counter Reeves with junior Sloan Anderson. The pitcher of the year in the Northwest Oregon Conference, who has made a verbal commitment to Wichita State, went 28-2 this season with a 0.94 ERA and 208 strikeouts in 179 innings.

Sophomore center fielder Alyssa Gillespie was the conference's top hitter at .473.

"It's an exciting challenge," Reeves says of facing a Glencoe team that spent much of the year ranked No. 1. "They are a great team. I'm ready for it."

Reeves pitched four innings, allowing two hits, in the title game last season.

"She definitely throws hard and keeps the ball down," Jukkala says of Reeves. "She forced our girls to swing at her pitches. She works ahead and when she gets ahead, she won't throw any good stuff. We have to be prepared to hit the first good pitch we see."

And should Glencoe manage to hit off Reeves, well, expect the composed senior to rise to the challenge.

"There have been some greats at Crater," Arnold says. "She's got to be right up there at the top."

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

Senior pitcher Brittany Reeves leads Crater into its third straight state title game. - Jamie Lusch