6A softball — The Tigers pound McNary 11-5 to advance to the second round of the playoffs for first time

KEIZER — The Newberg softball team has been on the rise in recent years, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time two years ago after placing sixth in the Pacific Conference and beating Sheldon in a play-in game.

Last year, the Tigers improved to fourth place to earn an automatic bid to the playoffs, but could not get past the first round, falling 7-2 to Clackamas.

On Monday, McNary stood between Newberg and its season-long goal: the first playoff win in school history.

Sparked by Madison Plummer’s two-run home run in the first inning, the Tigers jumped out to a 9-0 lead through three and a half innings and held on for an 11-5 victory to mark another first in program history.

“I don’t think you’d be going too far out on a limb in saying this is the best performance for a Newberg team,” head coach Steve Richards said.

Brooke Hansen singled home Jessica Wilson in the second to make it 3-0, then added four more in the top of the third — three as a result of Celtics errors and another on a Wilson RBI single. McNary committed six errors in the game, including a pair in the top of the fourth that helped Paityn Willoughby score her third run of the game.

The Celtics, ranked no. 15 in the OSAA rankings, weren’t ready to fold, however, and responded by hitting five consecutive doubles in the bottom of the fourth to make it 9-5.

“I was thinking we were going to run rule these guys and it’s going to be over here pretty soon,” Richards said. “All of a sudden we were back on our heels. It was crazy.”

When the Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth, Richards began to worry, but pitcher Emily Bromagem retired the Celtics in order and Ashton Porter launched a two-run home run in the top of the sixth to put No. 18 Newberg back in control.

Bromagem threw a complete game, allowing nine hits and three earned runs with four strikeouts and one walk, as the defense committed two errors to help McNary in the bottom of the fourth.

“She was good and our defense was really good with the exception of that one inning,” Richards said. “She gave up hits, but aside from that inning, they weren’t able to string anything together.”

The Tigers collected 12 hits as a team, including two apiece by Wilson, who hadn’t played the past few weeks, and Hansen, who filled in at second base for Charity Lawson, who was out of town for the holiday weekend.

Perhaps more impressive than the 12 hits was the fact that Newberg didn’t record a single strikeout. Katrina Reichenbach, Willoughby, Plummer and Porter all recorded two hits apiece, with Willoughby also drawing a pair of walks.

The Tigers will return to the Salem area Wednesday to play No. 2 South Salem, hoping to make history again, this time ahead of schedule, by qualifying for the state quarterfinals.

“They’re pretty excited about the fact that we get to move on,” Richards said. “As I reminded them on the bus, we beat No. 3 and that was Tualatin, so there’s no reason we can’t beat No. 2.”

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