By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Dayton softball ramping up for playoffs

For the third straight season the Pirates (18-2) clinched the West Valley League title. Dayton, 3A’s No.1-ranked team, clinched the title on the road May 7 in a 5-1 win vs. Colton (14-6).

The Pirates responded three days later with a 13-3 win over Regis for Dayton’s sixth straight win. They have won 11 of their last 13 games. Dayton has a chance to tie its win total of 21 from 2012 with three games remaining.

Dayton Pirates coach Rob Umbenhower said he thought the weather played a big part in Dayton’s win.

“It was one of the nicest days we’ve ever played up there,” Umbenhower said. “It’s usually cold and wet when we go up (to Colton). The warmer it is, the better our bats are, and the better Jamie (Chenea) throws.”

The story for the Pirates in the last month has been the dominance of Dayton’s youth. Freshman Rachael Fluke and sophomore Cooper Ringnalda have stepped up to help lead the offense in the last few weeks. Fluke ended April hitting two crucial home runs that helped propel the Pirates to wins, while Ringnalda has chipped in with hits that have resulted in runs scored for Dayton.

Friday’s game was no different. The game was scoreless going to the third inning when Fluke and Ringnalda got the Pirates on the board. Both players had run-scoring hits that helped Dayton jump out to a 3-0 lead after three innings. The Pirates added a run in the fifth and the seventh to secure the win and the league title.

“We did a good job holding them down early,” Umbenhower said. “Rachael Fluke, Ringnalda and a couple other girls really stepped up for us. We did a good job producing.”

Umbenhower said the team was well aware they had the chance to clinch the league title, but Umbenhower didn’t want to talk about it with the team. He said the team couldn’t be concerned about clinching because getting past Colton was a considerable challenge. The Vikings won 12 games last year and have 14 wins this season with two winnable games remaining against Willamina and Sheridan.

“I just wanted to go up there and win,” Umbenhower said. “Colton is much improved. They’re not a team you can just take lightly.”

Dayton responded Friday with a 10-run win over an improving Rams team, but Umbenhower said the Pirates didn’t play their best defensive game.

Dayton plays its final three games on the road. They start at 4:30 p.m. today with Perrydale, whom the Pirates beat 8-1 March 15. The Pirates play at 5 p.m. Friday vs. Sheridan. Dayton beat the Spartans 6-0 April 16.

The Pirates’ big challenge will be its final game March 14 at 4A’s No.1-ranked team, Banks.

“The way the RPI is, we want to play on the road. That helps us,” Umbenhower said. “I think we’ll be fine on the road. We’ll be playing Banks, a tough team. Hopefully it’ll be another win to pad our RPI.”

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