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Crater joins unique list

CORVALLIS — The Crater softball program joined elite company on Saturday afternoon.

Senior pitcher Brittany Reeves scattered five hits over seven innings and boosted the Comets offensively as Crater became just the fourth program in the state to win three consecutive titles with a 5-2 victory over Glencoe in the Class 5A championship game at the OSU Softball Complex.

All three state titles have come at the expense of Glencoe. The Comets beat Glencoe 7-5 for the 2007 title and 3-2 last season.

"The only thing better would have been four (state titles)," Reeves said with a laugh. "But as much as we thought about it (winning three straight) during the beginning of the season, it wasn't our top priority. Now that we've accomplished it, it's crazy. Everybody's just so excited about it."

In the final outing of her Crater career, Reeves was magnificent.

She held a potent Glencoe offense hitless until the fourth inning and had 10 strikeouts to just two walks.

Reeves struck out Glencoe junior pitcher Sloan Anderson with a runner on second to end the game in the seventh. She walked toward the dugout before slamming her glove to the ground as her teammates swarmed the senior, who was instrumental in helping Crater storm back from a 2-8 preseason record.

"It is special," Crater coach Chris Arnold said. "The danger with coming into this game with two state championships behind us was the familiarity. We talked about not letting that affect how we play today, despite the fact that we were two-time state champions. The kids carved their own name today."

"There were frustrations during the course of the season, but there were never times when they were so down and out that it truly affected our game as a team," Arnold added. "The kids stayed together. We have a team of team players."

Crater (19-12) never trailed in the contest against a Glencoe team that had won 16 straight games. The Comets' five runs were the second most scored this season against the Crimson Tide (28-3) — the highest being six by Roseburg in a preseason contest that Glencoe won 7-6.

"It means a lot," said sophomore third baseman Tara Ruvalcaba of another softball title, also the school's third overall. "Just to think that we won state three years in a row is so amazing. We really believed we could do it and look where we are at."

Crater took the fight to Glencoe early with Reeves belting a two-run home run against Anderson, who entered Saturday's game with a 28-2 record and a 0.94 ERA.

With junior first baseman Kayla Hopkinson already on third following a one-out triple to right-center field, Anderson threw a riseball that Reeves belted over the left-center field wall.

"I just let it go and it was right in the zone," Anderson said. "It was a really good hit and not a very good pitch."

That appeared to fuel Reeves in the circle.

She consistently worked ahead of the Crimson Tide lineup, throwing first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 17 batters faced through five innings and 16 of 27 in all. Save for a lead-off walk in the second, she sent Glencoe down in order through the first three innings and had six strikeouts.

"Her offense and defense are tied together," Arnold said. "Having a successful at-bat in the first inning was huge. It certainly did wonders for her confidence.

"Glencoe has some kids that are capable of hurting you with one swing of the bat. Luckily we neutralized most of them tonight."

Glencoe's sophomore second baseman, Lindsay Eubanks, ended the no-hit bid with a lead-off single to left, but Reeves promptly recorded three straight outs — two by strikeout.

"Basically, I knew they were aggressive," Reeves said of Glencoe. "So I had to be even more aggressive. A lot of batters don't swing at first pitches. I try to take advantage of that."

Though Anderson settled in after the first inning, retiring six of the next seven batters, Crater pushed across two runs in the fourth and an unearned run in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead. In the fourth, sophomore catcher Sarah Haga singled to right and Ruvalcaba drove her in with a one-out double to left-center field. Ruvalcaba later scored on a wild pitch.

Speedy sophomore center fielder Dennae Grant opened the fifth by reaching on a throwing error. She stole second and scored on Reeves' two-out single to right.

"We wanted to make sure we were patient and selective and not chasing pitches out of the zone," Arnold said. "Being patient paid off for us."

Crater had seven hits against the left-handed Anderson, who has made a verbal commitment to Wichita State. Anderson allowed four earned runs, struck out eight and walked two in seven innings.

"They have hitters that hit a lot better than the teams we face," Anderson said. "Some of the stuff I did in the games before didn't work as well with them. And then I missed pitches. Every hit was on a missed riseball. It hurts to miss like that.

"It sucks. But they deserve it and I'm glad we got here."

"We were kind of going, 'Third time's a charm,'" Anderson said. "But it just didn't happen."

Glencoe plated both its runs in the sixth. Sophomore center fielder Alyssa Gillespie reached with a slap bunt single and sophomore shortstop Jordan Kreiger drew a one-out walk. Senior third baseman Dacia Hale brought both home with a double to right field.

But the Crimson Tide suffered from multiple base-running miscues. Earlier in the sixth, Anderson reached on a throwing error, but her courtesy runner, senior Sarah Verboort, was doubled up at second after a running catch by Crater junior left fielder Emily Medina. That came two batters before Hale's double.

A double play also ended the fifth inning for Glencoe. With senior left fielder Emiley Atkins on second after a one-out double, freshman Alyssa Davis hit a routine ground ball to short and was thrown out at first. Atkins was then thrown out attempting to reach third.

"Every year we talk about how our defense has not been consistent, and that's been the case," Arnold said. "To do that was huge. Coming up big today was special."

Crater joins Churchill (twice), Harrisburg and Valley Catholic as the only teams to win three straight titles. Churchill owns the state record by winning four from 1980-83.

With all but three seniors returning next season, it's a mark the Comets will be shooting for.

"They'll fight for it," Reeves said. "I know these girls well. No matter what happens, they'll fight to get back."

Crater 200 210 0 — 5 7 1

Glencoe 000 002 0 — 2 5 1

Reeves and Haga; Anderson and Dendinger. W — Reeves (17-7). L — Anderson. 2B — C: Ruvalcaba; G: Hale, Sullivan, Atkins. 3B — C: Hopkinson. HR — C: Reeves.

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

Crater’s Brittany Reeves approaches home plate as her teammates await her arrival on Saturday. - Jamie Lusch