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PREP SOFTBALL: Comets take control of MWL race

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No. 3-ranked Crater sweeps Thurston in battle of MWL’s top teams

If close to an hour-long wait between warming up in the bullpen and throwing her first official pitch Friday afternoon rattled Crater starting pitcher Alexis Perez, she certainly didn’t show it.

In a meeting of the top two teams in the Midwestern League standings, Perez put forward one of her best outings of the season.

The Crater sophomore right-hander was on it from the start, allowing just two hits and striking out 14 to lead the No. 3-ranked Comets to a 7-2 win over Thurston in the opening game of the MWL doubleheader at Lithia & Driveway Fields.

“It’s just the confidence,” said Perez of Friday’s mindset. “It’s about keeping myself up and keeping my arm warm and everything like that. It’s what I had to do to throw like that.

“We’ve been working hard for this game and it feels good to know that we played well and came out and beat them.”

Game 2 proved to be more of a slugfest, but the Comets were able to hold off the Colts to claim a sweep with a 15-10 victory.

As a result of Friday’s triumphs, Crater (17-5, 12-0 MWL) is the lone unbeaten left in the MWL and has the upper hand in the league title race with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season.

The Comets have four league games left and won’t have to leave the Rogue Valley to play any of them, with a doubleheader at Eagle Point (15-7, 9-3) — which is now tied for second place with Thurston — set for Tuesday next up on the schedule before closing the season against fourth-place Ashland (14-7, 8-4) on May 19-20.

“Two good wins today,” said Crater coach Chris Arnold. “To win games, we know our defense will be good, we know our pitching is solid, so we have to create offense at the plate. I know that sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, but it’s so true. As far as adjusting to pitchers, you have all that knowledge built up and we just have to be smart hitters and make adjustments.”

Perez, who pitched five strong innings in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Class 6A McNary, recorded eight of her 14 strikeouts the first time through the Thurston (14-6, 9-3) order and were the first eight outs that the Comets recorded to begin Game 1. The lone blemish came against the leadoff batter in the top of the second inning, when Colts first baseman Kendall Miller connected for a home run to center field that tied the game at 1-all.

After allowing the home run to Miller — which Perez said came on a simple location mistake — Thurston did next to nothing offensively in Game 1.

Perez struck out the next five batters she faced on her way to retiring 15 straight before issuing her lone walk in the opener to begin the top of the seventh.

“I trust Lex completely when she’s in the circle,” said Crater senior shortstop Kailee Davis. “I like when she’s in there because I know she’s going to get done what she needs to get done. If she allows a hit or anything, I know our defense is going to back her up and she can trust that we’re pretty strong out in the field.”

Davis, the Comets’ speedy leadoff hitter, finished 3-for-3, scored three runs, stole four bases and reached base in all four of her plate appearances in Game 1.

After Sophia Van Wey — who, like Davis, was 3-for-3 at the plate — gave Crater a 2-1 lead with an RBI single into shallow center in the bottom of the second, Davis came in to score an inning later on Maddie Sheadel’s sacrifice fly into right field to make it 3-1.

The Comets broke it open in the bottom of the sixth with four runs to go ahead 7-1. Kaylynn Wolchok drew a bases-loaded walk before Davis recorded her third hit of the day on an infield single to score Van Wey. On the play, pinch-runner Taylor Ryan also scored after an errant Thurston throw across the diamond to third base went into left field.

Alyssa Kilbane brought in the Comets’ final run of Game 1 with an RBI double to the wall in right field.

Kilbane and Taylor Kenworthy both finished 2-for-3 in the opener.

“I knew that we needed to do what we always do and we’re pretty strong (as a team),” said Davis. “We’ve been really working hard to adjust to pitchers early.”

The first one to crack a smile at the mention of the Comets’ offense?

That would be Perez.

“It makes life easier because I know I can trust my offense and I can trust my defense,” she said.

Sheadel and McKenna Sease both went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Game 2. Suzy Foster, who picked up the win in the circle, also had a three-hit day and drove in two runs, while Abigail Foster, Kenworthy and Van Wey each had two RBIs.

Crater and Thurston entered Friday’s doubleheader with nearly identical run totals on the season, with the Comets outscoring the Colts 210-209.

“With (Thurston), we were looking at them and thought they were pretty equal score-wise against the other teams,” said Davis. “We had that mentality to get after it a little bit more.”

FIRST GAME

Thurston0100001—221

Crater111004x—7120

Ogan and Tovey; Perez and Reid. W — Perez. L — Ogan. 2B — C: Kilbane, Kenworthy. HR — T: Miller.

SECOND GAME

Thurston4011031—10105

Crater632211x—15164

Ogan, Thompson (6) and Tovey; S. Foster and Reid. W — Foster. L — Ogan. 2B — T: Tovey 2, Miller; C: S. Foster, Kenworthy, Sheadel, Sease. 3B — T: Spain.

BROOKINGS-HARBOR 16-30, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 1-3: Cascade Christian was unable to slow Brookings-Harbor’s offense and the Challengers were swept in the Far West League doubleheader at Lithia & Driveway Fields.

In the opener, McKenzie Bonner scored the Challengers’ lone run after she was hit by a pitch in the knee, stole second, third and then swiped home plate.

Bonner also tripled and Kayla Coble added a double in the five-inning opener.

In Game 2, Bonner completed the same feat as in the opener when she was hit by a pitch again and stole three bases, putting the Challengers (0-21, 0-9 FWL) on the scoreboard in the second inning.

Cascade added two more runs in the third inning when Ashlyn Ehrlich’s double drove home Callie Sweem, and later, Maile Scaglione walked, stole two bases and scored on a bunt by Bella Williams.

Brookings-Harbor (16-3, 8-1) claimed Game 2 by virtue of the three-inning, 15-run mercy rule.

FIRST GAME

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Cascade Christian10000—123

Taylor and Pryor; Sweem and Williams. W — Taylor. L — Sweem. 2B — BH: Hodges; CC: K. Coble. 3B — BH: Pryor; CC: Bonner.

SECOND GAME

Brookings-Harbor(10)4(16)—30122

Cascade Christian012—337

Taylor, J. Crosby (3) and Pryor; Bonner, Sweem (3) and Williams. W — Taylor. L — Bonner. 2B — BH: James 2, Pryor, Koepnick, C. Crosby; CC: Bonner, A. Ehrlich. 3B — BH: J. Crosby 2, Taylor, C. Crosby.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Alexis Perez delivers a strike during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Kailee Davis connects for a base hit during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Maddie Sheadel stretches to make an out at first base during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Sophia Van Wey drops a bunt to get on base during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Kailee Davis slides to third base safe during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Alyssa Kilbane connects for a double during game one at Lithia and Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.