By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Pirates join the hit parade

DAYTON – For the fourth consecutive season, Dayton softball is the champion of the Class 3A West Valley League.

And to hear the players tell it, it’s only the beginning.

“Everything’s looking really good,” Pirates junior Rachael Fluke said. “We’ve just got to keep it this way.”

The Pirates, ranked No. 2 in the OSAA Class 3A power rankings, made it to the 3A title game in 2013 before falling to Rainier, 9-3. Dayton has not lost to a 3A school since – Class 4A Yamhill-Carlton beat the Pirates, 5-3, on April 10; the schools squared off on Thursday – and has played in four games decided by fewer than 10 runs.

Junior pitcher Sierra Ray is a bona fide ace, one of the best pitchers in the state at any classification. Dayton has power up and down its batting order, which has manifested itself in 234 runs scored in 19 games, the most in 3A. (Pleasant Hill, ranked No. 3 by the OSAA, is second in runs scored; Vale, at 178 runs, is the third-most productive.)

“Everyone’s being really aggressive on the bases, which is a good thing,” Fluke said. “As we get up into the playoffs, we need to be able to face better pitchers with more movement on their balls. Our league isn’t as strong as the team’s we’re going to face in the long run.”

Dayton is equally adept at preventing runs, thanks to Ray and a stout defense backing her up. The Pirates have allowed 19 runs all season, the fewest in 3A; no 3A team has scored more than three runs against them.

To claim the league title, the Pirates (15-1, 9-0 WVL) had to get through a Gervais team that had not won a game all season and had not scored more than three runs in a game all season. Dayton responded with its season-high run total in a 29-0, five-inning contest at Dayton High School Tuesday.

Sydney Van Noy went 5-for-5 with an inside-the-park home run and four RBI, a triple short of the cycle. Second baseman Stephanie Jacks had four hits; Fluke, Kiley Hill and Teddi Hop each had three hits. Ray, in the designated player spot, had just one hit – a three-run home run as part of a nine-run second inning.

In the circle, Dayton coach Rob Umbenhower gave the start to junior Cooper Ringnalda, giving her some valuable time in case anything happens with Ray. Ringnalda allowed one hit – her only base runner – and struck out eight Gervais players.

The Pirates host Colton Friday night before going on a barnstorming tour over the next two weeks: at Rainier Tuesday, home against Class 4A Banks Thursday, at Class 2A/1A North Douglas/Elkton May 17, and at Harrisburg May 20.

All top-tier teams, all in preparation for the challenge ahead.

“I feel like people underestimated us this season because we lost one of our pitchers but we’re a lot stronger,” Van Noy said. “Everything came together super-well this year.

“I don’t think anything can stop us from this point on.”

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