DAYTON – The sound of softballs rocketing off composite bats is music to the ears of Dayton softball.
The Pirates, the No. 2 seed in the OSAA Class 3A state playoffs, scored 12 runs in their final three games of the regular season. Through two playoff games, Dayton has scored 24 runs, feasting on pitchers from Clatskanie and Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa.
“Our hitting was gone for a little bit,” Pirates shortstop Sydney Van Noy said. “But it’s back now. And I couldn’t be happier.”
On Saturday, Dayton (21-4) sent the No. 7 Cubs packing with a 14-1, five-inning victory in Dayton. That sets up a semifinal contest at home against No. 3 Rainier today – the team that defeated the Pirates for the Class 3A state championship in 2013 – at 4:30 p.m..
“We’re ready to take them out,” Van Noy said. “We’re ready for this game. That’ll be our game to give 100 percent.”
Dayton has played Rainier twice this season, defeating the Columbians 3-2 on March 20 but suffering a 1-0 loss in Rainier on May 13. The Pirates’ loss to the Columbians was the first game in a 4-3 ending to the team’s regular season.
Dayton players say they’re in a better place now than they were two weeks ago.
“I think since league ended – our league is not the strongest league in the state,” Van Noy said. “I think now that we’re seeing all the pitching that we need to see and we’re turning the machine up in practice, our mechanics and our swing is coming back. It’s going to be big.”
Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa (19-5), the Class 3A Eastern Oregon League champion, entered the Class 3A quarterfinal matchup on a 13-game win streak, including a 6-5 victory over Santiam Christian in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. The Cubs made a 368-mile, one-way trip from Wallowa County to Dayton for the game.
The Pirates proved unwelcome hosts. Starting pitcher Sierra Ray held down EJW in the first inning, then hit an RBI double in the bottom of the first off Cubs pitcher Sidney Cooney. Right fielder Cassi Hill brought Ray home with an RBI single.
EJW responded in the top of the second inning, as Hailee McClure singled home Macey Frei. The Pirates, however, fired right back.
When the dust settled on the second inning, Dayton had racked up 11 runs on eight hits, including two-run triples by Cooper Ringnalda and Kylee Hill and a two-run double Cassi Hill.
The Pirates tacked on one more run to end the fourth inning when Van Noy hit a leadoff single and scored on a Cubs’ error.
“She’s such a good power hitter. She gets on base every single time,” Ringnalda said of Van Noy, who went 1-for-4 in the game but scored three runs. “She’s my best friend, and when I see her get a good hit then I get a good hit, and it just follows and follows and then our bats are on. We just come out and we’re just determined to win.”
Ray settled down after the second inning and allowed one hit and one walk the rest of the way to Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa batters. (Two others reached on defensive errors.) Ray has allowed nine hits 11 innings pitched for the Pirates.
“She does her work. She hits her spots,” said Ringnalda, the Dayton catcher. “She’s fast, consistent. It’s just an honor to catch her, really.”
Ray will remain in the circle when the Columbians come to Dayton. And the rejuvenated Pirates will bring their bats.
“People are up at the fence, cheering. We have our nicknames. It’s crazy,” Ringnalda said. “We’re one big happy family and we’re just here for the ride.”