As bad as the cold, wet spring weather has been for softball throughout the state, perhaps no team has had it worse than reigning 3A champion Burns.
Up until last week, the Hilanders were unable to practice on their field because it was covered by about a foot of snow. They had their first practice on their field Thursday and will play their first home game Saturday when Umatilla visits for a doubleheader.
“We've been in the parking lot twice, but other than that, the only time we've been on a field is when we've traveled to play in a game,” coach Robert Medley said. “We've been practicing bunt coverages for six weeks in the gym. We're decent at it.”
Through it all, Burns has been resilient. With their 9-0 start, the Hilanders have extended their winning streak to 39. The all-time state record of 45 was set by Tualatin in 2018 and 2019.
“They're playing well, but it's a long road,” Medley said. “We certainly need to get better every week.”
Medley credited assistant coaches Ty Temple, Lindsay Davies and Anna Gahley with helping to keep the team on task.
“We've had to be creative,” he said. “You expect to be in the gym a couple days a week when it's raining, but not five or six weeks in a row. Our girls' attitudes have been great. They've been really appreciative when we've got outside on the field.”
Junior pitcher Ayla Davies, who fanned 342 batters last season, has picked up where she left off. In 58 innings, Davies has allowed 17 hits, struck out 138 and walked 12. She has an ERA of 0.97.
Davies tossed a seven-inning perfect game with 20 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over Vale last week, the only ball put in play coming in the seventh inning. She fanned 20 in a no-hitter against Madras. And she also has had games of 20, 17 and 16 strikeouts against Pendleton, Grant Union and Enterprise, respectively.
“She studies and she works hard as a pitcher to understand it,” Medley said. “She takes care of her body. She lifts every day. She's really, really in tune with what she needs to do to stay in pitching shape.”
It helps that she is throwing to senior catcher Merissa Medley for the third year in a row.
“They work so well together,” said Robert Medley, Merissa's father. “They know exactly what they're doing together.”
In their season opener, the Hilanders fell behind Pendleton, last year's 5A champion, 3-0 when Davies surrendered a three-run homer to senior Sammatha Wilks in the third inning.
But Davies struck out nine of the last 10 batters and Burns came back to win, pulling even with three runs in the fourth inning and getting a go-ahead, RBI single from senior Mattie Woodbury in the fifth inning.
The Hilanders scratched out a 2-1, eight-inning win over Yamhill-Carlton at Vale on March 29 in a rematch of last year's 3A final. Merissa Medley's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth won it.
Burns is hitting .349 as a team as Medley, Davies, Woodbury, senior Macy Temple, junior Ashley Wright and sophomore Gracie Mello are all batting better than .300. Medley has three home runs and Mello has two.
“Our team is seeing the ball well,” Robert Medley said. “We're doing a really good job of adjusting at the plate during the game.”
Burns returned its entire lineup from last year's state final except for designated player Kaya Dobson. The Hilanders are ranked No. 3 in the OSAAtoday 3A coaches poll behind No. 1 Yamhill-Carlton and No. 2 Scio,
“We have a lot of experience, and a lot of humble experience,” Robert Medley said. “The moment was great, it was exciting, but they came from Day 1 this year wanting to work hard and get better.”
Dallas offense gelling
Dallas, a 5A semifinalist last year, knew it could count on lefty junior ace Kadence Morrison this season. To reach another level, though, the Dragons needed their offense to be more productive.
So far, Dallas is much improved at the plate. The Dragons (10-1, 4-0 Mid-Willamette Conference) are averaging 9.3 runs per game, up from 6.4 last season, and getting contributions up and down their lineup.
“We've been able to hit the ball better this year than we have the last two years consistently,” said coach Brandi Jackson, whose team is No. 2 in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll behind Bend. “That's been pretty nice to see because we've relied so heavily on Kadence, as well as our defense, which we're pretty proud of.
“It seems like our mental side of the game, we've been able to turn the corner in that aspect. That's kind of the last piece of the puzzle that we've been waiting on.”
Junior second baseman Kaelyn Golden has been a catalyst, hitting .500 with two home runs and 22 runs scored. Morrison (.389, one home run), junior center fielder Clara Woolsey (.394, three home runs), junior catcher Jordan Cresswell (16 RBIs), junior right fielder Brook Duncan (one home run, 14 RBIs) and sophomore third baseman Madison Ruman (one home run, 12 RBIs) also are coming through.
“Each game it's like somebody else steps up and overall we're taking advantage of our opportunities,” Jackson said.
Morrison (8-1, 1.63 ERA), in her third season as the team's ace, also has been solid in the circle. In 60 innings, she has allowed 35 hits, struck out 86 and walked 14.
“Seeing the growth that she's made from her freshman and sophomore year until now is pretty significant,” Jackson said. “She's doing a really good job of hitting her spots and she's stronger. She's developed her mental side of the game, as well.
“She had that natural lefty movement. She's mixing her pitches with her changeup, which she's been able to develop over the last year.”
Dallas has one senior on its roster in Chloe Zajac. The Dragons are bolstered by an experienced junior class.
“I had very, very high expectations on this group based on the season we had last year,” Jackson said. “We were mostly freshmen and sophomores. I knew having two years of varsity softball under their belt was going to have a huge impact. Most of them play at a fairly high level of summer ball, as well.”
The Mid-Willamette also includes No. 3 Lebanon (9-2, 3-1), No. 5 Silverton (11-1, 5-0) and No. 7 West Albany (7-4, 2-2). Dallas plays host to Lebanon on Wednesday in a matchup of teams that shared the conference title last year.
“I think we have the best conference in 5A overall,” Jackson said. “You know it's going to be a dogfight.”
Notes: Senior pitcher Jessica Rule showed the way as Stayton, No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 4A coaches poll, opened Oregon West Conference play with wins over Newport, Sweet Home and Philomath. At the plate, she went 6 for 7 with a double, home run, five walks and eight RBIs. In 11 innings, she struck out 22 and walked three. … Senior Allyson Nordling and junior Lily Riley propelled Oregon City to wins over Tigard, No. 6 Lakeridge and co-No. 8 McNary last week. Nordling went 5 for 11 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs. Riley hit .500 and struck out 27 in 13 scoreless innings, including a 5-0 shutout of Tigard in a rematch of last year's 6A final. … Cascade sophomore Malia Scanlan went 8 for 10 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBIs and scored 10 runs as the Cougars defeated Philomath, North Marion and Sweet Home last week. She also struck out seven in four innings against North Marion. … Senior Lily Ferres had two game-winning hits and went 4-1 in the circle last week for Roosevelt, which leads the 6A Portland Interscholastic League. Ferres went 11 for 14 with a double, triple and 10 RBIs and scored 10 runs. She held opponents to six earned runs in five games. … Junior third baseman Evyn Morris had a big week for Westview. She went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and scored four runs in a loss to No. 5 McMinnville and had seven RBIs in wins over co-No. 8 Sherwood and Jesuit. … The Dalles, ranked third in 4A, opened Tri-River Conference play with three wins behind junior Kaleyah Crichton-Tunai, who went 8 for 11 with 13 RBIs. She has three home runs. … Crater senior shortstop Taylor Kenworthy batted .750 with six RBIs in a three-game sweep of Springfield last week. … Through 11 games, freshman Daphnie Heckel leads Marist Catholic in hits (20) and batting average (.556). … Crescent Valley sophomore Abby Kessler went 9 for 10 with three doubles, one triple and eight RBIs and scored six runs last week.