CORVALLIS — Pendleton’s Kristen Crawford came two outs from a no-hitter and the Spencer sisters provided her with all the run backing she needed. Those powers combined were more than enough to guarantee the outcome at Oregon State University’s Softball Complex: Pendleton’s first softball state title.
Silverton couldn’t manage to get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the seventh inning of the Class 5A State Championship on Saturday. By that time, the Bucks were too close to be denied the school’s first girls’ team championship, finishing the game off for a 6-1 victory.
“Well the dance team’s not the only one that has a state title now,” junior shortstop Kasidee Lemberger said jubilantly amidst a sea of fans and supporters after the game.
Crawford held a normally sure-hitting team in check through six innings. The Pendleton (23-7) ace made her living by throwing high and tight to the Silverton batters, forcing contact hitters to make difficult adjustments to her pitches’ speed and movement. The approach left most batters struggling just to make contact, either tipping balls lightly into the net behind home plate or equally as softly into the infield.
A Destinee Sandlin ground out to third base to end the sixth inning marked the 17th out recorded by Crawford’s infield over a span of 18 outs up to that point. It wasn’t until Katie Mannion singled through the infield in the seventh inning that Crawford’s no-hit bid finally ended.
Silverton (22-9) would avoid the shutout when Jordan Martin singled home the team’s first run later in the inning. The score was unearned for Crawford after the runner, Shelby McIntire, reached base earlier in the inning on a dropped third strike.
“I was just pitching my heart out, trying to play the best game I could in my last game,” said Crawford, who along with seniors Jory Spencer and Courtney Schumacher-Sweek, received high school diplomas after the game. “I was just trying to get ground balls and make it easy on my defense behind me. And they did so amazingly, not having any errors.”
Pendleton held its school graduation Saturday at 1 p.m., the same start time as the 5A softball championship.
Silverton, which averaged better than 7.5 runs per game this year while finishing third in the Mid-Willamette Conference, couldn’t get around on Crawford’s pitches even when they knew what was coming, Foxes shortstop Haley Hibbs said.
“Truthfully, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, she wasn’t throwing too fast,” said Hibbs, the Mid-Willamette Player of the Year who went 0 for 3 against Crawford on Saturday. “She just had the real inside corner, throwing some sliders.”
That inside work led to Silverton’s first base runner in the second inning. Taylor Medley took a pitch off the elbow with one out, but no runner would get farther than first base in the inning.
As Crawford focused on blanking the Foxes, the Buckaroo bats gave her a big lead to work with. In the first inning, Pendleton scored five runs off of Silverton’s Mannion in the circle. The pitcher had thrown four straight shutouts in the playoffs coming into the championship game.
Pendleton, the Columbia River Conference champs, played as the designated away team because the Bucks drew more home games during their playoff run as the No. 1 overall seed. Silverton hosted only their semifinal game on Tuesday, a 1-0 victory over The Dalles Wahtonka.
The girls were ready to swing right away as No. 2 hitter Darian Lindsey got on with a single before Lemberger followed with another. With runners on second and first, Rayne Spencer connected on a rocket right down the line to third base. The ball skipped over the bag and rattled down into the left field corner, allowing both runs to score.
After an Evangelina Olivera walk, Rayne’s sister Jory stepped to the plate and grabbed hold of every bit of a pitch, raking a shot toward the scoreboard on the other side of the left field fence. The three-run home run put the Bucks up 5-0.
“When (coach Tim) Cary told us we were going to be the guests and batting first, we knew we couldn’t start slow,” Jory Spencer said. “We wanted to jump on them right away.”
“I think it just gave us some real excitement, got us pumped up,” Rayne Spencer said of the early fireworks. “We thought, ‘All we have to do is keep doing that and the game’s ours.’ ”
Rayne Spencer’s offensive domination was only just beginning. The junior catcher would triple in the top of the third inning, clubbing a ball into the gap in right center. From there, Mannion started to get her pitching legs back under her.
Until Spencer came back to the plate in the sixth.
After two three-up, three-down innings Spencer led off the sixth inning. The catcher turned on the first offering she saw and lifted the ball to left field. Silverton outfielder Dani Schaecher gave chase momentarily, but slowed up long before the softball came down for Pendleton’s second home run of the game. The solo home run put the Bucks up 6-0.
Watching her sister crush a home run on Saturday created an everlasting memory for Jory Spencer, the first baseman said.
“It was our last game together with me as a senior so it’s kind of an unforgettable moment,” she said. “I’ll always cherish this game where my sister and I both performed our bests.”
The Spencer girls had never hit home runs in the same game before. Their bombs were nearly identical, both landing in the same spot.
After her homer, Rayne Spencer had all the makings of a cycle performance except the single, usually the easy one. In the top of the seventh inning, the Bucks needed to get two runners on to give her another at-bat. But the inning ended with the slugger waiting in the on-deck circle.
“You know it would have been nice but it didn’t bug me much,” Spencer said. “I was just happy to get the seventh inning done so we could come out on top.”
The Spencer sisters finished with all six RBIs in the game. Rayne Spencer was the lone batter on either side with multiple hits.
Mannion struck out nine batters for the seventh-seeded Foxes, who were also chasing their first state title. Silverton had won 21 of 22 games before Saturday’s loss.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.