The Lions won three in a row at the North Medford Spring Break Invitational, and saw the return of pitching ace Mariah Mulcahy
Finally, the Lions have all-state pitcher Mariah Mulcahy back in the saddle.
Mulcahy returned after several weeks sidelined by hospital visits, starting for the Lions (3-4) against Eagle Point on March 25 after pitching a single inning the previous morning.
And for St. Helens, she couldn't have returned at a better time. Before heading to the North Medford Spring Break Invitational, the Lions had dropped their first three games. The hardest to swallow, a 13-11 loss to Glencoe, came just days before the tournament began. The Lions scored ten runs in the third and fourth innings to take a 10-4 lead, but Glencoe picked up five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and another three in the fifth to jump back on top. It was another split performance from Hannah Jordan and Brooklyn Scheer for the Lions in the circle, a pair of youthful pitchers who were forced to carry the load with Mulcahy on the bench.
It was a three-run homer from 2013 6A player of the year Courtney Clayton that got Glenco's rally started in the fourth inning, helping the Crimson Tide to outscore St. Helens 9-1 the rest of the way. Jordan and Scheer combined for just one strikeout and walking three batters, but Glencoe's pitching staff didn't do much better. The Crimson Tide's three candidates struck out three and walked eight, giving up seven earned runs.
By the time the game was over, it looked like the Lions' gamble with their tough preseason had failed. They were winless in their first (albeit rather brutal) three games, and couldn't take advantage when opportunities had popped up. After the opening 2-0 loss to West Albany on March 17, head coach Jeff Edwards said he wasn't happy with the loss, but was pleased with the quality of play he'd gotten in the first outing. Since then, the losses had become harder to deal with, culminating in the March 21 loss to Glencoe.
When the Lions left for North Medford, though, something clicked.
Scheer, the freshman who had pitched in her first high school game less than a week earlier, was in the circle for St. Helens against Phoenix, and the Lions finally delivered. Scheer kept everything within reach through the first quarter, walking her first batter, but making easy defensive plays for the veteran defensive cast around her.
The top of the second proved to be Phoenix's undoing. Alyssa Geisbers led off, reaching third base on a mistake from the Phoenix catcher, who failed to corral a pitch on two at-bats in a row, bringing Geisbers home to open the scoring. Senior Kali Moore scored minutes later on an RBI single from Kayla Finch, and the rout was on. Finch and Stevie Strawn scored on a wild pitch to put the Lions up 4-0, and a single from sophomore catcher Taylor Leal drove home Karli Edwards and Michelle Sass, taking advantage of an error at second base. Another passed ball brough Leal home, closing the second-inning scoring with the Lions up 7-0.
Phoenix was never able to make a rally, scoring two runs in the fourth inning and three in the fifth, but St. Helens still led by 11 heading to the sixth, pulling away to win 15-16 and finally put a tally in the right column.
The next game, a 15-2 win over Hidden Valley, was equally as brutal on offense and for a few minutes, it looked like St. Helens might pull away early. The Lions had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but the Mustangs pulled two runs back in the top of the second. Then Leal stepped up knocking home a pitch in the bottom of the second, scoring herself and Edwards to restart the Lions' engines.
Hidden Valley got only one base hit the rest of the way, but as far as the Lions were concerned, the preseason took a favorable turn in the fifth inning when Mulcahy stepped onto the dirt for the first time.
With sophomore Shayla Lawson as her opponent, Mulcahy tossed her first pitch.
Strike. And the second? Strike.
Mulcahy went on to throw five more, striking out the final two batters to close the game, serving as a warm-up for the next morning.
With Eagle Point next on the radar, the Lions were ready. No batter reached first base through the first three innings, and though a pair of errors in the fourth inning put two runners on base and scored a point for the Eagles, it wasn't until freshman Megan Ayres cracked a homer in the fifth inning that the underdogs finally got a base hit.
Leal responded with a two-run home run of her own in the sixth, putting the Lions up 11-2. The Eagles scored once in the seventh, but it was too late. The rust was off, and the Lions were far out of reach.
The final game for St. Helens at the tournament wasn't quite as pretty. Tualatin jumped on top 2-0 in the second inning, and 4-0 in the top of the third. The Lions loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with two outs, but freshman pitcher Camryn Robbins struck out Kali Moore, ending the Lions' chances of starting their rally.
Things stayed within four points – the Lion offense still stagnant – until the sixth inning, when Tualatin finally got a bead on the St. Helens pitching staff. The Wolves scored on five consecutive at-bats, picking up 10 runs in the inning and turning a close game into a blowout. The Lions got two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn't manage to score.
Thankfully for St. Helens, they won't have to face a double-header for the rest of the season. They have another back-to-back with McNary and McNinnville on April 1 and 2, and another with Sandy and Wilsonville in mid April, but the slower schedule will open up options for Jeff Edwards and the coaching staff. Their hopes to finish with a high seed now rest on a brilliant regular season run and the last handful of preseason games.
The regular season begins on April 15, with a home game against Sherwood. The preseason will conclude on April 10 when the Lions visit Jesuit.
Glencoe 13, St. Helens 11
STHE 005 501 0 – 11 11 7
GLEN 031 531 X – 13 13 4
Hits (11): Strawn, Edwards 2, Sass 2, Leal, Geisbers, Scheer 2, Finch 2
RBIs (7): Edwards, Sass, Geisbers, Moore, Scheer, Finch, Fischer
Runs (11): Edwards 3, Sass, Leal 2, Geisbers 2, Moore 2, Scheer
Hits (13): Besuyen 2, Apling, Clayton 3, Surratt, Eastman 2, Messmer 4
RBIs (10): Clayton 4, Eastman, Messmer 5
Runs (13): Besuyen 2, Apling 2, Clayton 2, Surratt, Becker, Dendinger, Sahlfeld, Messmer, Vice, Stoner
St. Helens 15, Phoenix 6
STH 070 151 1 – 15 9 3
PHX 000 230 1 – 6 6 5
Hits (9): Strawn, Edwards, Sass 2, Leal, Geisbers, Finch, Fischer
RBIs (5): Ewards, Sass 2, Leal, Finch
Runs (15): Strawn 2, Edwards 2, Sass 4, Leal, Thurston, Alyssa Geisbers, Moore, Scheer, Finch, Fischer
Hits (6): Maclema, Skall 2, Sourman 2, Hyrd
RBIs (3): Skall 2, Sourman
Runs (6): Maclema, Tally, Scagend 2, Skall 2
St. Helens 15, Hidden Valley 2
HIDD 020 00 – 2 4 5
STHE 424 50 – 15 15 1
Hits (15): Edwards 2, Leal 3, Fischer 1, Alyssa Geisbers, Moore, Strang, Thurston, Sass 3, Strawn, Mulcahy
RBIs (8): Leal 4, Moore, Thurston, Sass 2
Runs (15): Edwards 3, Leal 3, Fischer, Strang 2, Sass 3, Strawn 2, Mulcahy
Hits (4): Allen, Bragg 2, Dawson
RBIs (2): Lawson, Dawson
Runs (2): Bragg, Dawson
St. Helens 11, Eagle Point 3
STHE 330 212 0 – 11 7 1
EAGL 000 110 1 – 3 3 3
Hits (7): Strawn 2, Sass 2, Leal 3
RBIs (10): Sass 1, Leal 7, Mulcahy 2
Runs (11): Strawn 2, Edwards 2, Sass 4, Leal, Ashley Geisbers, Fischer
Tualatin 14, St. Helens 0
TUAL 022 00-10 – 14 16 1
STHE 000 000 – 0 5 4
Hits (5): Ashley Geisbers, Fischer, Alyssa Geisbers, Sass 2