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Cascade Christian downs Taft, advances to semis

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The Taft Tigers of Lincoln City scored first against Cascade Christian in the Class 3A softball state quarterfinals. But for the second straight post-season game, it proved to be no problem for the host Challengers.

Cascade Christian excelled in the three major phases of ball — pitching, hitting and fielding — and advanced to the school’s first appearence in the softball semiinals with a 8-3 victory Friday at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Third-seeded Cascade Christian (22-7) travels to defending 3A state champion Dayton (18-5) in Tuesday’s semifinals. The second-seeded Pirates adanced with a 10-1 victory over Yamhill-Carlton.

Challengers sophomore pitcher Katelyn Willard got the big outs when needed, Mallory Meilicke hit her second home run in these playoffs to pace a 10-hit attack and the Cascade defense made plays.

“Katelyn had better velocity today and was hitting her spots,” said Cascade Christian third-year coach Keith Willard, father of the Challengers’ ace pitcher. “We had timely hitting and didn’t leave many runners on base. And our defense was solid. We made the plays when we had to.”

Taft capitalized on a walk to No. 2 batter Addie Gates, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Kayla Linninger, to grab a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

But like it did in the opening-round victory on Wednesday, Cascade Christian answered back right.

Mia Mayben, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and scored one run, reached base on a one-out bunt single. When Taft shortstop Gates could not come up with Willard’s pop up in short left field, Mayben was forced out at second. Then Meilicke followed with a towering fly over the head of right-fielder Chloe Peterson’s for an inside-the-park home run. Meilicke slowed down rounding third but coach Willard saw second baseman Linninger with her head down after getting the relay throw from Peterson and responded by sending Meilicke home for a 2-1 Challenger lead.

“That was huge,” said the Challenger coach. “It can get mental playing from behind. It’s good to have the lead.”

In the third, the Challengers tacked on two more runs.

Leadoff hitter Audrey Quast opened with a walk, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Mayben’s single in short left field. Mayben advanced to second on the throw home then scored what proved to be the winning run on Willard’s double.

And after the Tigers (18-9) scored in the fourth to pull to within 4-2, the Challengers put up two runs to build the lead to 6-2.

Neha Joseph, the No. 9 hitter, delievered a two-out RBI single, scoring Rebecca Clark, who had opened the frame with a single. And Mayben provided another RBI base hit.

Again in the fifth, Taft scored an unearned run but Meilicke opened the bottom half with a smash over left-fielder Kyla Knott’s head for a double to spark a two-run rally and an 8-2 advantage.

“Her (E. Coulter) motion was easy for me to time,” explained Meilicke about her success at the plate. “I envisioned the ball and where I wanted to hit it.”

The Challenger defense rose to the ocassion throughout the game.

In the first inning, sophomore right-fielder Emily Knight had to come in to catch a falling line drive to end the inning with a runner in scoring position. Centerfielder Quast made an impressive running catch on a hard hit ball for the second out with a runner in scoring position. And in the fifth, Mayben made an alert play at second after fumbling a grounder but didn’t panic and tagged out Emma Coulter, who had just hit an RBI single.

“I knew I didn’t want to let my team down,” said Mayben, about the heads up defensive gem. “I was going for the double play but after bobbling the ball I saw I still had the tag.”

Katelyn Willard (22-7) surrendered five hits, struck out seven, walked two and allowed just one earned run. Additionally, she had strikeouts to end two innings with runners on base and two flyouts to right with players in scoring position for the third out. Willard set Taft down in order in the seventh with two strikeouts, including one to end the game.

Katelyn Willard said her nerves weren’t a factor in the second playoff game and she had good command of her pitches.

“I was more calm and hitting my spots better,” said the pitcher. “My changeup was working amazing. And I could throw my off-speed then blow the ball by them when they weren’t ready.”

Her dad and coach wasn’t surprised with her performance: “Katelyn knows how to bear down. She’s used to pressure in the circle.”


Cascade Christian202220x—8101

E. Coulter and Danneker; Willard and Modrell. W — Willard (22-7). L — E. Coulter (7-8). 2B — T: Tolan; CC: Meilicke, Willard 2. HR — CC: Meilicke (4) .

Mallory Meilicke cathes a throw at first for an out against Taft runner Corey VanDamme. Photo by Denise Baratta
Claira Tolan, (7), is chased down for an out between second and thrid base by Kara Palmer, (14), and Rebecca Clark, (7). Photo by Denise Baratta
Katelyn Willard of Cascade Christian throws a pitch against Taft. Photo by Denise Baratta