By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– The playoffs can be a strange time of year. Sometimes you’re comfortably ahead, then a few minutes later it’s a tied ball game and chaos is just surrounding you like a mosh pit.
Some teams crumble, other’s rise to the occasion and let it play out. And for Cascade on Friday afternoon against Estacada, they rose to the occasion. Confident in their ability to withstand the Rangers rally that had turned a 4-0 deficit into a 4-4 ball game going into the bottom half of the fourth inning in what would be a 7-4 home victory.
Their close games with Stayton and Sweet Home coming down the stretch of the regular season aided towards their composure Friday with Estacada loading up the bases with no outs and the Cougars answered with a fly-out to Kailee Bode and a Hannah Walliman strikeout. One of 11 strikeouts the senior had in the circle.
“If we didn’t have those close games with Stayton and Sweet Home during league play, we don’t get out of the inning like we did. We were able to stay composed in that inning because we’ve been tested in the close games that we did have at the end of the season. I didn’t know what I would do without the people in my defense talking to me, it was huge for us. We had that great catch in Left Field, it was just phenomenal for us to get out of that inning. It could’ve been a lot bigger,” Walliman said.
Two wild pitches and two RBi singles, one each from Libby Juker and Isabella Us-Zapata, helped pull the Rangers to even with the Cougars going into the bottom half of the inning following another Walliman strikeout.
Yes, Cascade got out of the jam, but Us-Zapata wasn’t going to yield what her offense provided her with the senior holding Cascade scoreless going to the fifth. Fly-out, ground out, error and another ground out was the result of the inning. Walliman surrendered a lead-off walk before fanning the next three batters to end the inning.
And this is when the Cougars dug deep within. With one out on the board, they got two quick base runners on with Abby Jeppsen and Crystal Campbell, then that’s when Cascade made their move.
Walliman doubled, Malia Scanlan singled and Jaimy Bangert grounded into a fielder’s choice. All scored runs and put Cascade ahead 7-4 going into the sixth. A sigh of relief in a way as their defense permitted just two hits total over the sixth and seventh innings
“It was great. We have the passion and drive that we can completely do anything that we can if we put our mind to it,” Campbell said. We need to keep pulling it together because no matter how difficult it is, we need to push through and do our best,” said Campbell. “We just can’t let this win get to us too much. We just need to pull ahead and just wait for the next game.”
Campbell, Jeppsen, Walliman, Scanlan, Caylen Metcalf and Sadie Ambrosek all had two hits each in the win to set-up a Semi-Final bout with La Grande. It’s the first time since 2012 that the Cougars have reached this point, and with a few days to rest up as they hope to reach the State Championship Game for the first time since that year.
All the big games and moments, Friday included, will hopefully help them come Tuesday when they play the Tigers in Turner.
“They taught us what we need to do when we’re in those big moments and I know La Grande will be tough. They’re going to come here and want to beat us, we’re just going to have to fight every second of that game. I mean it could be our last and for us seniors, we’re not ready to go out yet,” Walliman said. “Every single close inning that we’ve had, that one big inning we’ve had . It just taught us that we can get through the game and fight through every single inning.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald