By Jeremy McDonald
MEDFORD, Ore.– They came out with a passion and fire in the winner-take-all 14A State Championship game against Bat Company Thiry, NW Vandals wanted revenge for BC squeaking by them 2-1 about 20, 25 minutes earlier as they lined up on the hot turf at US Cellular Fields one last time on their Medford trip.
By the time they entered the bottom of the second inning, they hung two three-run innings as the Vandals led 6-0 going out to play defense once more.
“It was great, our pitchers threw really well, we just wanted to come out with that fire because we all knew that we wanted that one more than they did,” said McNary’s Abbi Covalt. “And it had to come out hot because we’re not going to lose this game.”
Kami Gibson pitched a three-strikeout performance before handing the reigns over to Oregon West Conference Pitcher of the Year in Kamden Combs from Philomath with Combs carried that momentum from the top of the first into her pitching that her defense fed off of.
Bat Company got a quick run in the second however, but nothing more as Combs and her defense limited the runs on the board the best that they could. That was because offensively, the bats cooled off a bit after the hot start and by the bottom of the fifth inning the game was awfully too close for comfort at 6-3 and BC looking for a crooked number.
“I just knew that my catcher and (Head Coach) Marie (Scott) knew where to place the ball so they won’t hit it so I knew if I just hit my spots that we’re going to be good,” said Combs.
And that’s what happened as Combs went as clutch as Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 World Series with a three-up, three-down in the fifth and the sixth inning with Combs picking up her sixth strikeout of the game in the sixth inning with the game entering its final frame.
Reagan Davis doubled to start the inning, her 11th hit of the tournament in 18 at-bats, before taking third on a pass ball as Covalt brought her in for her fifth RBI of the tournament. Kami Gibson would eventually bring Covalt home to make it 8-3 entering the bottom half of the seventh inning.
There was a nervous-excitement in the air for the Vandals coming back out after that nice top of the seventh inning, those two insurance runs gave them a lot of confidence leading 8-3 to finish the game out strongly.
“I just knew that we just had to keep doing our thing, just like we had the last six innings and we will be set,” said Combs as she prepared for the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh inning.
In right field, Mackenzie Scott was bouncing around after a Carley Schlag-to-Kami Gibson put-out for the first out as if someone gave her an extra-caffeinated coffee that was just beginning to kick in. Or maybe it was the fact that the outfield was two outs away from donuts for committing no errors as a unit to go with a possible championship? Who knows *cue the laughter*.
“It was nice, it was nice coming back from the loss and having a lot more energy and being able to change the atmosphere so that was cool. Being able to know that we had it, that we could do it,” said Scott. “I think we did really well, we kept the energy nice and high so that was always helps and Kamden pitched a great game so it’s great.”
Covalt got the next two outs via Pop Out and Ground out to Gibson to complete the tournament championship win.
And as Head Coach Scott came out to greet her team with smiles all around and the younger Scott hopping around like a kid on the last day of school, the Head Coach of the NW Vandals is proud of her team with how close they have came as a team this season.
“These girls have been through a lot this year with change in names and coaches and the girls stayed together and it was really impressive to watch how mature all these athletes were,” said Marie Scott “This is our first-year as Vandals and to come away with a State Championship as a new NW Vandals is one of the most amazing things for the entire team and I owe it all to the girls and to be able to keep their composure through all of it.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and I think it speaks to the maturity of the athletes and also the parents and everyone sticking together as one large family and play through it. I mean they work better as a team then any other team I’ve seen.”
With a week off, the Vandals will be healing up before going to Missouri for the Junior Olympic Cup at St. Louis starting on July 23 and going through the 28 before wrapping up the summer season back in Medford for the Western Nationals on July 30 through August 5.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald