Grant Union won its second consecutive 2A/1A softball championship Friday by beating Weston-McEwen at the University of Oregon.
Grant Union won its second consecutive 2A/1A softball championship Friday by beating Weston-McEwen at the University of Oregon.

EUGENE – For a reigning state champion, No. 1 seed Grant Union/Prairie City had a little something extra to prove in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 2A/1A softball final Friday at the University of Oregon.

In the opposite dugout was second-seeded Weston-McEwen/Griswold, last year's runner-up, which swept a doubleheader from the Prospectors this season and took away their District 7 title.

“We're both very competitive teams. There's definitely some animosity,” Grant Union senior pitcher Drew Williams said.

The Prospectors got the final word, coming up with clutch hits and riding the pitching of Williams to turn back the TigerScots 11-0 in six innings. Senior Halle Parsons struck the deciding blow by belting a walk-off, three-run homer to center field to cap a five-run sixth inning.

“I think they had the mentality that since they beat us, that they could beat us again, so they came in really relaxed,” Parsons said. “We did, too, but I think we wanted it more at the end of the day. We knew what to do to win.”

Williams, the 2A/1A pitcher of the year last season, pitched a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter. In last year's final, she tossed a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

“We were oddly calm coming into this,” Williams said. “We were confident. It's definitely hard going into a state championship game against a team you've lost to two times. But we know that it's hard to beat a team three times, and it's really hard to beat us. I'm sorry, but it is.

“We had all the things we needed, we just had to put it all together.”

That's exactly what Grant Union did in the playoffs. Behind Williams, the Prospectors outscored their four postseason foes 51-0.

“Honestly, losing the two to Weston was the turning point in the season,” Grant Union coach Zach Williams said. “There comes a point where sometimes you get a little big for your britches and you think you can show up and win games. But you better show up and play the game right.”

After a slow start Friday, the offense kicked into gear against sophomore pitcher Bre Ward. The Prospectors scored three runs in the fourth inning, two in the fifth and five in the sixth.

Parsons had the three-run blast and a sacrifice fly. Junior Skylar McKay had two hits, including a two-run single. Williams went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Juniors Addy Northway and Reece Jacobs also drove in runs.

It was a turnabout from the Special District 7 doubleheader at Weston-McEwen on May 3, when the TigerScots won 5-3 and 4-2.

“When we played them, we had a lot of sick girls, and we just didn't play our best, honestly,” Parsons said. “It was Grant Union High School out there, but it was a team we don't even know anymore.

“We talked about it the day after, and we had a whole new mindset. We came into this game just wanting that win because we know we've beaten them before and we knew that we could do it.”

The clinching home run off senior Hailey Stallings – who relieved Ward in the seventh – was a storybook finish for Parsons, who does not plan to continue playing after high school.

“It's bittersweet because this is my senior year,” she said. “To go out like that, it was pretty awesome.”

Grant Union had never appeared in a state final until finishing as runner-up in 2022. The Prospectors looked like seasoned veterans in the last two state championship games at Jane Sanders Stadium.

“Coach said going into this, 'We've been here so many times, we've got to make it feel like home or it's going to take us over,'” Drew Williams said of her father. “We just feel home now. We're lucky to get this same dugout three times in a row.”

It was an emotional ending for Zach Williams and the team's four seniors; Parsons, Williams, Sivanna Hodge and Alyssa Catalini. He has coached the teams juniors and seniors since they were eight years old.

“To end this senior group with a state championship was important to them,” Zach Williams said. “Even though we've won one, it wouldn't have been the same if we wouldn't have won this one.

“I'm sad and I'm happy. I'm happy they went out the way they did, but I'll never get to coach those girls again.”

Grant Union will have some giant shoes to fill with the seniors, in particular, Drew Williams.

“She's just been our rock,” Parsons said. “Honestly, she just drives the team. She's what gets us going.”

Zach Williams said he has yet to decide if he will return as the team's coach without Drew, who plans to continue her softball career at the College of Idaho.

“I love coaching softball,” Zach said. “The freshmen that came in this year, they're unbelievable, they're going to be tough. They're worthy of sticking around for, 100 percent. But that decision just hasn't been made yet.”