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Silverton upsets Crater in 5A playoff opener

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It wasn’t how Crater head coach Chris Arnold or anybody else on the Comets softball team drew it up.

Not with their first chance to play a state playoff game since 2019.

Instead, the usually sound Comets saw a snowball hard to stop in the top of the fourth inning, as a pair of pitchers for No. 4 Crater issued four walks with the bases loaded, allowing 13th-seeded Silverton to get back in front and eventually pull the upset with a 7-5 win in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Wednesday at Crater High.

“The back-to-back aspect kinda multiplies the damage that it can do, and it was tough,” said Arnold. “A lot of times, I know it’s just a struggle to find the zone and work the zone — and that’s just not on the pitcher, it’s a credit to Silverton’s hitters. It was a difficult day to be a pitcher in the circle on both sides, and we definitely struggled there.”

Arnold credited the “difficult day” to some playoff jitters.

“The strike zone was good and consistent, I thought,” he said, “but for whatever reason, maybe the fact it was the playoffs — we had younger girls in the circle with freshmen and sophomores — and that nervousness of the playoffs and it being a big game and you’ve got to win to advance and the pressure ... sometimes it takes its toll. Sometimes as coaches we forget about that.”

Crater (21-7) was trying to make it into the quarterfinal round for the third straight season in which the state playoffs have been held. The Comets still had three players from that team around in seniors Kailee Davis, McKenna Sease and Sophia Van Wey.

But the Comets — who had won six of their last seven regular-season games, closing out the Midwestern League title in the process — were just not their usual selves Wednesday.

Crater spotted Silverton (18-9) a lead right out of the chute.

The Foxes, out of the Mid-Willamette League, went ahead 2-0 in the top of the first on a two-run home run by Braezen Henderson. The Comets quickly pulled even when Sease launched a two-run home run of her own to tie the game.

An inning later, Crater plated another pair of runs to go ahead 4-2 when Van Wey hit an RBI double to score Kaylynn Wolchok and then came in from third on a Lilli Reid groundout.

“Just the way we answered back, the girls have really responded all year long,” said Arnold.

But in the top of the fourth, the Comets saw that lead disappear.

Crater starting pitcher Alexis Perez issued a pair of bases-loaded walks, allowing Silverton to tie the game. Kaylee Lundeen then replaced Perez but didn’t fair much better, also issuing a pair of bases-loaded walks to allow the Foxes to go ahead 6-4 without virtue of a single hit.

All told, three of the four walks issued by Perez and Lundeen came with two outs.

“Just the momentum in that fourth inning when we struggled, it really shifted,” said Arnold. “It’s tough, and it’s a tough part of the game when things don’t go the way you want them to go. It’s challenging.”

Crater cut Silverton’s lead in half in the bottom of the fourth on Davis’ RBI double to the center field wall, but the Foxes got a much-coveted insurance run in the sixth to push their lead to 7-5.

The Comets had the potential tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a pair of Foxes errors, but Silverton was able to get a double play to end both the game and Crater’s season.

Davis finished 2-for-4, while Sease had two RBIs and scored a run. They are two of the four seniors Crater will graduate this season, along with Van Wey and Wolchok.

“All season long we’ve felt confident defensively and in the circle knowing that for us to win we need to score runs and produce at the plate,” said Arnold. “We were a little aggressive, a little anxious today and made good contact, but Silverton made some nice plays on balls that were hit hard. Sometimes you put the ball in play pretty well and it’s still an out.”

Henderson, McKenzee Petersen and Hannah Houts accounted for six of Silverton’s seven hits. Henderson finished 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and two RBIs, while Peterson and Houts both had two-hit days and a double.

Silverton will face fifth-seeded Dallas/Falls City — which beat Putnan 2-1 on Wednesday — in Friday’s quarterfinal.

“The kids had such high expectations and they set high expectations at the beginning of the season for themselves,” said Arnold. “I think this team truly believed that they were the ones that were calling the shots — that our success was based on us, not on the other team doing something. We had control of our own destiny and we just didn’t get it done today.”

Silverton 200 401 0 — 7 7 2

Crater 220 100 0 — 5 7 0

Petersen and Henderson; Perez, Lundeen (4), S. Foster (4), Perez (6) and Reid. W — Petersen. L — Perez. 2B — S: Petersen, Henderson, Houts; C: Davis, Van Wey. HR — S: Henderson; C: Sease.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Kaylynn Wolchok slides into home plate safe during the second inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Taylor Kenworthy makes a play to home plate for an out during the sixth inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's McKenna Sease connects for a home run during the first inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's McKenna Sease celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run during the first inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Alexis Perez delivers a strike during the second inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Lilli Reid tags out Silverton's Justina Semerikov at home plate during the sixth inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Crater's Kailee Davis connects for an RBI double during the fourth inning of Wednesday's Class 5A state playoff opener against Silverton.