Dallas senior Kadence Morrison, the 5A pitcher of the year in 2023, has a 0.83 ERA this season. (Photo by Jeremy McDonald)
Dallas senior Kadence Morrison, the 5A pitcher of the year in 2023, has a 0.83 ERA this season. (Photo by Jeremy McDonald)

In its 7-0 start to the softball season, Dallas is showing the same kind of grit and resilience that propelled the Dragons to their first state championship last year.

They haven't been racking up five-inning blowouts, they are just making winning plays, much like they did when they rallied from a four-run deficit to beat Mid-Willamette Conference rival Lebanon in the 5A final last year.

“I've been super impressed by that,” said coach Brandi Jackson, whose team is No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll. “They're not giving up and fighting until the end. They have the heart and determination. It's almost like picking up where we left off last year.”

Of Dallas' seven wins, six came against 6A teams and the other was against 5A No. 2 Canby. The Dragons ran the table at the North Medford Spring Break Tournament this week, beating West Linn 5-3, Barlow 6-1, Roseburg 4-1 and Beaverton 10-0 in five innings.

Dallas trailed West Linn 3-0 in the fourth inning before coming back to win behind two RBIs from senior Clara Woolsey and run-scoring hits from junior Madison Ruman and senior Kaelyn Golden. It is the only loss this season for the Lions (6-1), ranked co-No. 8 in 6A.

Perhaps the Dragons' most impressive victory came March 19, when they escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning to hold on for a 2-1 home win over 6A co-No. 10 McNary, avenging a 3-2 loss to the Celtics last season.

With all but one starter back from last year's 26-3 team, including the 5A pitcher of the year in senior lefty Kadence Morrison, Dallas has a chance to be even better.

“We definitely have the potential,” Jackson said. “This could go one of two ways. One, we put too much pressure on ourselves to get where we got last year, and it could maybe not be a great outcome. Or we could play with confidence and know what it takes to get there.

“I've been reminding the girls from the get-go that this is a new year, a new start. We have high expectations, but we've still got to make sure we're taking care of our own game.”

Morrison, who last season struck out 223 in 147 1/3 innings and had a 1.14 ERA, has continued to dominate. In 42 innings, she has allowed 17 hits, struck out 54 and walked seven and posted an ERA of 0.83. She went 3-0 in Medford this week, striking out 31 and giving up nine hits in 21 innings.

This is likely to be the final softball season for Morrison, who does not plan to play in college.

“She decided that she is ready to be done after high school ball,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of colleges are still trying, but she's pretty adamant.”

Morrison has resumed her role as the leadoff hitter this season. Golden – a second-team all-state second baseman last year, when she led the team in batting (.400) and runs (36) – hits second. Senior outfielders Woolsey and Brook Dunkin have been trading off in the No. 3 spot, ahead of senior third baseman Kaitlyn Brian.

Brian, a varsity starter for Central as a freshman and sophomore, transferred to Dallas as a junior but did not play in 2023 while recovering from ankle surgery. She has provided a big bat, hitting .348 with five doubles and one triple. Four of her doubles came in Monday's wins over West Linn and Barlow.

“Before Medford, she was struggling a little bit,” Jackson said of Brian. “It's been a while for her. She's getting back in the groove of seeing live pitching.We were just kind of waiting for it to click. Monday it was like, 'OK, there she is.' That was super exciting to see.”

Woolsey is hitting .333 with one home run and a team-high seven RBIs. Ruman is batting .278 with three doubles and Dunkin has driven in six runs.

Dallas will be pushed in a tough Mid-Willamette that includes No. 4 Silverton (7-1), No. 6 Lebanon (5-3), No. 8 Central (6-2) and No. 9 West Albany (5-2). The Dragons are idle until opening conference play April 5 at home against West Albany.

“We have to play it one game at a time because we've got a target on our backs, and our conference is a good conference,” Jackson said. “We've got to take care of business.”