By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Dayton softball rises to No. 1, faces Willamina

Since the calendar turned to April, Dayton Pirates softball has caught fire. They’ve won six of their last seven games, including Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the struggling Sheridan Spartans.

Since the win-streak started April 2, the Pirates (13-2) have locked up the No. 1 ranking in 3A and tested their status Saturday against No. 2-ranked Rainier. Dayton and the Columbians split the doubleheader, and the Pirates ranking stood strong going into Tuesday against Sheridan (6-8).

“Yeah we lost a game, but I don’t think the girls were pressing coming into this game,” Dayton coach Rob Umbenhower said. “We faced one of, if not the best pitcher (Kylee Crape) in our (classification). Not only did we outscore them, but we held them scoreless in our win.”

Dayton’s star pitcher Jamie Chenea struggled throughout warmups to consistently find the glove of catcher Cooper Ringnalda. What looked to be pregame jitters carried over to first inning jitters.

Chenea walked Sheridan leadoff hitter Skyler Graham and hit Baylee Harvel to put runners on first and second with no outs. Chenea responded by striking out the Spartans’ third hitter and got Jessica Roberts to line into a double play to end the inning.

Dayton’s first cloud of doubt was averted.

Chenea admitted it wasn’t her best game and questioned the type of outing she’d have based on warmups.

“It wasn’t as good as it should’ve been — at all,” Chenea said. “I probably wasn’t as focused as I should be during warmups. The day just didn’t go as well as I wanted it to.”

Sophomore Sydney Van Noy attempted to give Chenea some of her groove back. Van Noy led off the bottom half of the first inning with a bunt single and scored after a stolen base and a sacrifice from Sierra Ray to put the Pirates on top 1-0 after one inning.

The run seemed to work.

Chenea cruised for the next two innings with three strikeouts, a walk, one hit and no runs, but Sheridan crept back into Chenea’s head in the fourth inning. After a routine groundout to start the inning, Chenea walked Bailey Grigsby, who stole second, and advanced to third on a Chenea throwing error. Grigsby attempted to steal home but was blocked by Ringnalda to end Sheridan’s rally.

“Our timing was just off today because of facing Kylee this weekend,” Umbenhower said. “Jamie’s been solid for us all year. Rainier is the No. 2-ranked team, she held them scoreless, so she’ll be fine.”

Once again, this time in the fourth inning, Dayton did what it could to pick up Chenea, this time with a 2-0 lead. Ringnalda opened Dayton’s fourth inning with an out and Michaela Shouldis got on with a bunt single and a stolen base. Shelby Byerly brought her in with an RBI single. After a bunt single by Teddi Hop, Van Noy came up and hammered a two-RBI triple to left-center field. The triple gave the Pirates a 5-0 lead.

A deep sacrifice fly from Ray scored Van Noy to complete Dayton’s four-run inning that gave the Pirates the 6-0 lead.

Van Noy and Hop led the Pirates with two hits each.

“It was right down the middle and I was just able to pick it up really well,” said Van Noy of her fourth inning two-RBI triple. “I knew I had to bring (Byerly and Hop) in. We needed to score and get the inning started. It was that lead-off mentality that really got to me.”

After escaping the fourth inning, Chenea cruised through innings five and six but encountered some trouble in the seventh inning. Grigsby led the inning off and drove the first pitch from Chenea directly off Chenea’s ankle. The ball hit off Chenea’s left ankle and deadened into the dirt. Chenea had the opportunity to throw Grigsby out at first but was visibly angry about taking a shot off the ankle and elected not to make the throw.

“It made me a little angry,” Chenea said. “At that point I just wanted to finish them right there.”

Chenea finished the game with two groundouts and pop fly to center field to achieve the shutout and Dayton’s 13th win of the season. She allowed two hits, two walks and struck out five in seven innings.

Chenea said the key to going forward as the No. 1-ranked team is staying focused and confident.

“For us it’s mostly focus and confidence,” Chenea said. “We like to have fun and goof around. Sometimes we don’t realize when we need to be focused. There needs to be focus and no doubting our ability.”

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