By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

Van Noy's home run sends Pirates to title game

This year, No. 1-ranked Dayton (24-3) found itself in trouble four times Tuesday against Santiam Christian (23-6), but in all four innings it escaped without giving up a run. The Pirates won the game 1-0 in eight innings to move on to the 3A state championship game at 4 p.m. today vs. Rainier at the Oregon State University Softball Complex.

“It just shows the growth of this team,” Dayton catcher Cooper Ringnalda said. “It was this Santiam Christian team that played for the title last year. To be able to beat them shows how far we’ve come as a team. I couldn’t be more proud of us.”

Dayton shortstop Sydney Van Noy won the game for the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth inning on a walk-off inside-the-park home run, the first of her career. After taking the first two pitches, Van Noy swung at the third pitch and drove the ball to left field.

“I knew I had to get something done to keep this team going,” Van Noy said of her winning at bat. “Coach kept telling me to hit the ball to left field, I did, and we got the win we wanted.”

Eagles’ left fielder Rachel Boyer dove for the ball but couldn’t come up with the catch and the ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Van Noy to score the winning run.

Santiam Christian had four chances in four separate innings to take the lead, but over-aggressive decisions by Eagles coach Dan Whitney helped Dayton escape without any runs allowed.

Dayton coach Rob Umbenhower said the Pirates defense didn’t play up to their potential in the 3A state quarterfinal win over Willamina, but Tuesday’s defensive performance was exactly what Dayton needed to beat the Eagles.

“It’s great to get there (the state championship game). It’s been a few years since the program’s been there,” Umbenhower said. “Defensively we just shut the door on them.”

In the third inning, Santiam Christian had runners on first and second, but Dayton’s lone senior, pitcher Jamie Chenea, was able to pitch out of trouble. She did so again in the fifth and sixth inning with runners in scoring position.

After not making it to the state championship game last year, Chenea will finally get to pitch in a state title game. After her semifinal win, an emotional Chenea said playing Rainier for the 3A state championship will be extra special.

“It’ll be a good match-up given the history with them this year,” Chenea said. “I just have to keep the ball low. (The Columbians) have a lot of power hitters. So I have to work on the draw ball a lot.”

The 3A state championship game means Rainier and Dayton will meet for the third time this season. Both Van Noy and Chenea said of every team the Pirates faced this season, the Columbians were by far the most challenging. Rainier and Dayton met April 13 in a doubleheader, and the two teams split the series. The Pirates took the first game 1-0.

Umbenhower said the second game with Rainier, an 11-8 win for the Columbians in 10 innings, was near-identical to Dayton’s playoff win Tuesday against Santiam Christian. The two teams were tied at eight going into extra innings when Rainier got three runs in the 10th inning to win.

“The series with Rainier was just like this game with Santiam Christian,” Umbenhower said. “Both games were tight, so we won’t be nervous this time.”

Rainier enters into the 3A state championship game on a six-game win streak. Two of the Columbians’ three losses this season came against Banks.

Despite Dayton’s dramatic and emotional win over Santiam Christian to move on to the 3A state championship game, the Pirates players said they know there’s little time to celebrate.

“I think we enjoy this now, but come back tomorrow and practice hard,” Van Noy said. “We know we have to play our hearts out against Rainier, but I think we can get it done.”

Notes: Last season, the Pirates were unable to overcome No. 1-ranked Blanchet Catholic and fell 10-5 in the semifinal round, and the Cavaliers played Santiam Christian for the 3A state championship. … Dayton previously played Santiam Christian on March 13, its second game of the season and fell to the Eagles 6-2.

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