Saturday’s state softball quarterfinal between the South Salem Saxons and Roseburg Indians was a tale of intentional walks.
One given, one not. The Indians are moving on to the semifinals, the Saxons are not.
Makinna Akers hit two home runs for Roseburg, the second of which broke a tie in the eighth inning, to carry the No. 6 Indians (22-6) to a 4-2 victory at South Salem (26-4) in the Class 6A playoffs.
It was a stunning end to the season for the third-ranked Saxons, who were state finalists the past two years and were breezing along Saturday with a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning.
But one swing of the bat by Akers ruined South Salem’s bid for a third straight trip to the final four and left fans and South Salem coach Scott McCormick wishing he hadn’t pitched to Akers.
Already with a two-run home run to her credit in the sixth inning, Akers, the Indians’ senior pitcher, came to the plate again in the top of the eighth with two out, a runner on second and first base open.
Thinking Saxons pitcher Katie Donovan could get a strikeout to end the inning, McCormick let his junior ace pitch to Akers.
Three pitches later, it looked like a big mistake.
Akers slammed Donovan’s one-ball, one-strike pitch deep over the left field wall to give Roseburg a lead they would never give up.
“We thought about (walking Akers), but Katie had struck her out the first two times and (Akers) did not look good so we thought we could get her again,” said McCormick. “We rolled the dice.”
And in a twist of irony better suited to something out of a novel, Donovan and Akers faced off again – this time with the roles reversed.
Trailing by two runs and down to their final out, the Saxons sent up Donovan, team’s cleanup hitter, with runners on second and third. Again, first base was open.
Earlier in the game Donovan lashed a hard line drive to center for a single off Akers and had been making solid contact off the Indians’ pitcher all day.
Now faced with the same dilemma as McCormick, Roseburg coach Tony Campos decided to play it safe: Donovan was intentionally walked to load the bases.
It turned out to be the right call for the Indians as Katie Hammitt followed for South Salem and grounded out to second to end the game.
“It’s a tough loss, especially when it’s one-and-done,” said McCormick. “They gave us a shot there in the bottom of the inning but we just weren’t able to cash it in.”
For five innings South Salem looked like a lock to move on to the semifinals.
Donovan 11 of the first 17 Roseburg batters she faced, allowing just one hit.
The Saxons meanwhile were having better luck on offense, scoring single runs in the first and fifth innings to take a 2-0 lead.
Burdick got things started for South Salem in the bottom of the first with a leadoff bunt single and scored two batters later on a line drive single by catcher Raina Reece down the right field line.
In the fifth, senior Rachel Polacek led off with a double to center field and came around to score on a single to shallow right by Kennan Fiering.
Roseburg didn’t break through until there was one out in the sixth when Sydney Reynolds singled sharply to left and Akers followed with her first big fly to tie the game.
“We were up two and feeling pretty good because (Donovan) was kind of dominating their lineup,” said McCormick. “The girls are disappointed, especially the seniors. They were wanting to get back (to the championship game) one more time.”
Akers and Conklin; Donovan and Reece. WP – Akers; LP – Donovan. 2B – Polacek (SS); HR – Akers 2 (R).