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Tualatin tops Glencoe to take inside track to conference title


Crimson Tide battle emotions on Senior Night, and Tualatin takes advantage in a 10-6 victory

Playing your conference rival with a league title at stake on Senior Night is one tough proposition.

That is the exact situation the Glencoe softball team found itself in on Tuesday, when the team hosted No. 3 Tualatin with the Pacific Conference title on the line.

On what was an emotional day, it is understandable that the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide (19-6, 11-2) were a little unsettled at first pitch. The bad news for the home team was that the Timberwolves (19-5, 11-2) came out swinging, built up a 5-0 first-inning lead and held on in the seventh for a 10-6 win.

The good news for Glencoe was that it found — when it was settled and dialed in — that it could play with the high-powered Timberwolves, which could pay dividends with the state playoffs rapidly approaching.

“It was a little shaky at the beginning. We were just really emotional with everything that went on today,” said Tide senior Emilee Eastman, who tried to give it a go in the pitcher’s circle in the first inning. “We fought as hard as we could. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way ... but we battled back as soon as we could. We had heart throughout the entire thing, so that’s why I’m really proud of my team.”

Emotions were clearly running high for Glencoe at the start of the contest.

Many of the Tide players were in tears before the game as they celebrated five high-impact seniors. Adding to the occasion, Glencoe coach Jacy Jukkala’s sister Julie Hiles, a longtime fan of the program who has been battling ovarian cancer, was able to make it out to watch for part of the afternoon.

Eastman has pitched sparingly in recent weeks due to bothersome scar tissue in a surgically repaired knee, and she was having difficulty finding the corners for strikes. The Timberwolves gave her and an unsettled Tide defense no quarter either, jumping out to a 4-0 lead on two hits, a hit batter, a sacrifice fly, a fielder’s choice, a single, and one more knock that scored a run when the ball bounced off the umpire’s foot and away from Glencoe infielders.

Sometimes that’s just the way the game goes.

At that point, Tatum Becker — one of four Tide pitchers who saw action on the afternoon — came on to relieve Eastman, giving up a run before getting out of the half-inning with a groundout to first.

“Sometimes it’s hard to refocus,” Jukkala said, referring to the emotions of Senior Night. “That first inning I think wasn’t exactly how we would have planned it. That being said, for the rest of the game, we only gave up five more runs.

“We’ve just gotta bear down and make plays when we need them.”

To Glencoe’s credit, the team did not quit despite the rough start. In the bottom half of the first, one of those superlative seniors, Courtney Clayton, pulled a run back for the home team when she smacked an RBI double along the third base line that scored Macy Besuyen from second.

The Tide cut into the margin again in the third on a sacrifice fly from senior Kylie Surratt to score Maria Dendinger, who had reached base on a double that went deep into left-center before rolling to the fence.

But Timberwolves ace Emily Sorem, a pitcher Jukkala dubbed as “hands-down the best pitcher in our league,” was not giving up a whole lot early on, and that dent was not enough. Tualatin tacked on three runs in the fourth and two more — on a two-run home run from Nicole Miller — in the sixth to seemingly put the game on ice.

And then a funny thing happened. The Tide, finally relaxed, started getting to Sorem, scoring four runs with two outs in the seventh before Eastman grounded out to first.

“One of the things we preach is not giving up, so I was really proud of everyone, because we stuck with it and fought back and tried our hardest,” Clayton said. “That’s all we could do there.”

Lauren Messmer started the charge with a leadoff walk, which Jessica Vice followed with a bloop single to the edge of the infield. After Emmi Stonier struck out swinging and Besuyen advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, then the fun really started.

First, Messmer breezed home on a wild pitch during Dendinger’s at-bat, and then Dendinger, Glencoe’s ever-reliable first baseman, gave herself a Senior Night hit to remember when she launched a full-count pitch from Sorem over the fence in left field for a two-run homer.

Then Clayton drew a walk and scored on a Surratt double that bounced away from Tualatin left fielder Tanna Baggenstos back toward the fence for one more run. And while the next at-bat ended the comeback a few runs short, the contest helped the Tide pick up some valuable experience late in the season.

“We need to play teams like this, good teams with good pitching,” Jukkala said. “It’s good for us going into playoffs. You always want to win, but sometimes it’s not your night.”

Both teams had already locked up two of the Pacific Conference’s four automatic Class 6A state playoff berths before Tuesday’s contest. They were scheduled to be back in action in league finales on Thursday, when Tualatin hosted Newberg and Glencoe traveled to Tigard.

Results of those games were not available at press deadline, but assuming both squads took care of business, the league title would go to Tualatin by virtue of its head-to-head record against Glencoe.