For the fifth year in a row, the Dayton Pirates are headed to the Oregon 3A state championship softball game. They get there having to fight off a Cascade Christian Challengers squad who battled down to the last out.
Coach Keith Willard said this wasn’t a “David and Goliath” game, even if the Challengers were making a run they never had before since Cascade came up to the 3A ranks a little over a decade ago. The top four ranked teams all made it to the semis, and the Challengers played like a worthy semifinalist.
It was a game of big plays. Audrey Quast had two hits on the day, and scored when a Dayton fielder dropped a shallow pop-up by Mallory Meilicke. Dayton turned right around and took a 2-1 lead after an inning- the key play a triple by Maddie Fluke. It was the only hit the Pirates had all day.
Ali Modrell and Neha Joseph drew walks, and Quast came through with an RBI single to tie things up again. Kara Palmer cracked a two-run double to stake the team to a 4-2 lead in the fifth. The sophomore also had two hits on the afternoon.
The defending state champions battled back. The squeeze bunt is meant for putting pressure on the opposition’s defense, often forcing quick throws and quick decisions. The result were hurried throws and a rundown, allowing Dayton to knot the game up at 4, after a hits batsman and a pair of errors set the stage.
Jodi DeSmet plated Cate-Lynn Jacks on a sacrifice fly for what would prove to be a game winner.
Cascade Christian completes their 2019 campaign with a stellar 22-8 record. Three seniors anchored a young Challengers team that had no juniors, several sophomores and a handful of freshmen. Hats off to Audrey Quast, Mia Mayben and Mallory Meilicke. All three will attend Oregon schools: Quast and Mayben will attend Southern Oregon University. Meilicke will attend Corban. Mayben and Meilicke will play softball collegiality.
Only one playoff team gets to end their season with a win. While the sadness is understandable, hopefully one day this Challengers team can smile over the fun they had together, and that they stretched their season to include three playoffs games.
“Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened.”