The four remaining Douglas County teams in the Oregon high school playoffs — South Umpqua and North Douglas softball and Umpqua Valley Christian and North Douglas baseball — all have one common trait as they prepare for their semifinal games on Tuesday.

Strong pitching.

In Class 3A softball, fourth-seeded South Umpqua (22-5) travels to No. 1 Clatskanie (25-0). First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

In 2A/1A softball, No. 9 North Douglas (26-3) will host No. 20 Lakeview (20-8) at 4:30 p.m. at Howard’s Field in Drain.

In 2A/1A baseball, No. 4 Umpqua Valley Christian (25-3) visits No. 1 Knappa (24-1) in a 4:30 p.m. start. No. 7 North Douglas (22-6) travels to Mt. Angel to face No. 3 Kennedy (27-2) at 4:30 p.m.

The Lancers, who are chasing their first state championship in softball, have a stopper in the circle in Tayah Kelley.

The senior right-hander, who was selected the Far West League player of the year, has been stingy in two playoff games in Tri City. She tossed a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 4-2 victory over No. 13 Nyssa and fired a one-hitter with 15 punchouts in a 3-0 shutout of No. 5 Rainier.

“In order to get this far, you need more than a pitcher,” S.U. coach Joelle McGrorty said. “But the pitcher is also a very key to success. You need someone to keep the other team off-balance. We’ve got Tayah in the circle and she’s been on a roll all season long.”

While the arm of Kelley shines, the Lancers can also swing the bat and defend in the field. S.U. is averaging 9.5 runs and allowing 1.6 per game.

McGrorty pointed out seven first-team all-league selections: Kelley, third baseman Kalie Mann, shortstop Shalyn Gray, catcher Aailyah Rudy, outfielders Hannah Lowell and Skylee Gibson and utility Amelia Ferguson. Outfielder Aneykah McCall was a second-team pick.

“This group of girls we have, they know how to play softball,” said McGrorty, who was named the FWL coach of the year.

Now the Lancers, who dropped down from 4A to 3A this year, will have to go on the road for their biggest postseason test. The Tigers average nearly 11 runs a game.

“The ultimate goal is to do everything we can to get to the final game,” McGrorty said. “I’m a firm believer rankings aren’t always the telltale sign of who’s going to win. We have to go in and play our game.”

The other semifinal pits No. 3 Cascade Christian (22-7) at No. 2 Dayton (18-5). Dayton is the defending state champion.

At North Douglas, coach Jesse Rice has perhaps the most talented pitcher in the 2A/1A ranks in Nicki Derrick.

The junior right-hander pitched a pair of playoff wins on the road last week, fanning nine in a 12-7 win over No. 8 Bonanza Wednesday and tossing a four-hitter with 16 strikeouts in a 5-0 shutout of No. 1 Grant Union Friday.

“Getting to this point, a good offense and good defense won’t take you all the way,” Rice said. “You need a dominating force on the mound. Nicki was rusty at the start of the season (coming off an ACL injury which caused her to miss her sophomore season), but her performance against Grant Union was the best I’ve seen her pitch. She was hitting her spots.”

Derrick pitched the Warriors to their first state softball title as a freshman in 2017. She was voted the 2A/1A player of the year. Rice sees a motivated player trying to give her team another opportunity at a state crown.

“Nicki handles pressure so well,” Rice said. “It makes her want to be that much better.”

North Douglas has a capable backup pitcher in freshman Halli Vaughn. Seniors Riley Black and Joanna Alcantar have provided good leadership.

Rice says the Warriors’ defense has been solid all year and their bats are coming around. North Douglas has 24 hits in the playoffs.

The other semifinal has No. 7 Kennedy (21-4) at No. 3 Toledo (25-2). Kennedy is the defending state champion.

The UVC baseball team has relied on its pitching and defense all season. The Monarchs haven’t allowed an earned run in two playoff games at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field — a 13-0 victory over No. 20 Culver and an 8-1 win over No. 5 Reedsport.

Junior KC Pettibone pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts over five innings against Culver and senior Aaron Buechley allowed three hits over five innings versus Reedsport. Senior Jacob Luther relieved in both contests and sophomore Devin McLaughlin also finished one game.

“Pitching keeps you in a lot of games,” York said. “Our guys played fantastic defensively (against Reedsport Friday).”

The Monarchs will certainly need to bring their bats to Knappa, a two-time defending state champion which hasn’t lost to an Oregon team this season. The Loggers’ lone loss came to Centaurus High (Colorado) at a tournament in Arizona in March.

Knappa has only allowed 36 runs in 25 games.

“They’re going to be very good,” York said. “They pitch really well. (Junior) Eli Takalo, I don’t think he’s been beat all year. They do everything right, are very well-coached and have a winning pedigree. It’s a tough challenge.”

The other semifinal includes another Special District 4 squad. The Warriors are in the final four for the first time since 1995.

North Douglas has been one of the state’s hottest teams during the past month, winning 13 of its last 15 games. The Warriors took two of three from UVC in their league series.

“It’s awesome (having two SD4 teams in the semis),” York said. “North Douglas is playing remarkably well. Jeff (Davis) is getting everything out of that group.”

The Warriors have relied on the arms of senior Brian Erickson and junior Colter Anderson. North Douglas started the season slow at the plate, but has picked up its offensive production and continues to play good defense.

Anderson, who missed last year with an ACL injury, and Erickson combined on a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over No. 10 Toledo. Erickson allowed three hits and one earned run in 6 1/3 innings in a 12-3 victory at No. 2 Monroe Friday.

Freshman Waylon Beckham has also pitched some key innings in relief. Seniors Koldan Frieze and Cal Parks can also pitch if needed.

“There are some explosive offensive teams, but you like to have guys who can go get some outs for you,” Davis said. “I’m a little partial to pitching (being a former pitcher). Brian’s and Colter’s styles complement each other. Colter comes from the side and Brian’s more compact. Brian didn’t have anything but a fastball (in the past), but he’s now a pitcher at our level.

“Neither are necessarily overpowering, but they have good stuff.”

The Warriors will hope their postseason success will continue against a talented Kennedy team.

“Why not us? We’re pretty confident right now,” Davis said. “I’m happy for the seniors.”

Sports Editor Tom Eggers can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or at 541-957-4220.

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Sports Editor

Tom Eggers is the sports editor for The News-Review. He can be reached at teggers@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4220.

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