For the Neah-Kah-Nie High Lady Pirates softball team, every game is a must win situation in order for them to have a chance to qualify for the upcoming Special District 1 Playoffs on May 13.
Neah-Kah-Nie, guided by coach Stevie Jackson, accomplished it’s goal as the Pirates got a much needed doubleheader sweep, winning 20-9 and 18-8 over the winless Portland Christian Royals (0-13 SD1, 0-14 overall) last Friday at Portland Christian High School.
“We felt very confident prior to the game, we’ve been working very hard and we just felt like this is a team (Royals) that we can beat as long as we show up and play our game,” said Jackson. “I’m very, very proud of the girls and everyone hit really well today. Our pitchers (Hailey Ernst, Taylor Meyers) were throwing consistently and they both did a good job. In regards to the playoff picture, it’s not over until it’s over. We have to continue winning and all our remaining games are going to be huge in order for us to make the playoffs. The pressure is on and we would probably have to win four of our last five games.”
The sweep marked Neah-Kah-Nie’s fourth win in its last five games and keeps the Pirates in a four-way tie for fourth place in the eight-team Special District 1 league standings. There’s five games left on the schedule following Tuesday’s contest at St. Paul (results unavailable at press time).
A young Neah-Kah-Nie squad with seven freshmen and only two seniors (Avery Smith, Winter Easton) is hoping to win most of its remaining games to clinch a district playoff spot. The Pirates (7-8 SD1, 7-12 overall) are in a logjam in fourth along with the Perrydale Pirates (7-8, 9-8), the Nestucca Bobcats (7-8, 8-11) and the St. Paul Buckaroos (7-8, 11-9).
“I was really happy to get the sweep today,” said Smith, who hit a double in both games. “PC is kind of new team in our league, but we still knew that we would have to work our hardest to get the win. We’ve had some tough losses this season, but this sweep really provides us with lots of momentum. I had lots of fun, I loved watching our pitchers do so well and I enjoyed seeing everyone hitting so good too and we really had a very good day. We’re really hoping to accomplish our goal of making the playoffs, which would be really great.”
Neah-Kah-Nie’s next game is a 3 p.m. key doubleheader at home Friday versus St. Paul. The Pirates follow with a 4:30 p.m. road game against the No. 10 ranked Knappa Loggers (9-6 SD1, 13-7) May 7. NKN concludes the regular season with a 3 p.m. home doubleheader against Knappa May 10.
Neah-Kah-Nie had a strong start in the opening contest and built a 10-4 second inning advantage. NKN then continued its solid offensive attack with nearly every Pirate getting involved in the hit parade and they extended the margin to 13-4 after five innnigs.
NKN built a double-digit margin in the sixth, highlighted with RBI’s by freshman Hailey Ernst, sophomore Hannah Barlow and freshman Lilian Klay, while increasing the margin to 20-4 in the top of the sixth. PC put five runs on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the frame. It wasn’t enough for the Royals though as the contest concluded with after six via the 10-run Mercy Rule with NKN on top 20-9. The 20 runs equaled a season high for NKN, which won 20-9 against Perrydale on April 17.
“I felt really good and I was glad that I was able to throw a good changeup pitch to get batters out today,” said Ernst, who pitched in Game 2. “We came into the contest feeling very confident and knowing that if we played our game, then we would probably win. I’ve had lots of fun with my team this year and we’re enjoying ourselves in the dugout while cheering for each other. Hopefully, we’ll accomplish our goal and make it to the playoffs.”
Game 1 starting pitcher Taylor Meyers helped lead the Pirates to victory with a strong performance in the pitching circle.
“It was fun to get out here on a nice sunny day and get a win,” said Meyers, who was throwing fastballs and curveballs to keep PC batters off balance. “Prior to the game, we felt pretty confident that we would be able to win. It definitely made me feel relaxed with having a such a big lead and also knowing that my teammates were playing such good defense behind me too. I definitely think we have a chance to reach the playoffs if we just keep playing well and continue winning some more games.”
Meyers, a sophomore first baseman/pitcher, was tough at the plate as well as she batted 3-for-4 with a walk and 4 RBI. Barlow also helped lead the offense as she batted 3-for-4, with a walk, 2 RBI and three singles.
The Royals provided NKN with a little more of a challenge in Game 2 as PC went up 6-3 in the second inning. The Pirates outscored the Royals 15-2 over the next three innings to get another lopsided victory that ended with a five-inning Mercy Rule contest.
Meyers (2-for-3, two walks, 3 RBI) and Klay (2-for-3, walk, 2 RBI) helped lead the Pirate offense in Game 2 with strong offensive performances. Ernst had a strong pitching performance in the circle as she struck out eight and walked three.
Game 1 – Neah-Kah-Nie 20, Portland Christian 9
Game 2 – Neah-Kah-Nie 18, Portland Christian 8