EUGENE — The postseason journey began on the road at Bonanza for the North Douglas Warriors.
It ended in thrilling fashion Friday night on the beautiful turf at Jane Sanders Stadium, the home of the Oregon Ducks.
Ninth-seeded North Douglas never trailed en route to winning its second OSAA Class 2A/1A softball title in three years, posting a convincing 15-6 decision over No. 7 Kennedy of Mt. Angel.
The Warriors (28-3) backed up all-state pitcher Nicki Derrick with 14 hits and took control of the contest with six runs in the top of the third inning. North Douglas led 9-0 before the Trojans (22-5), the defending state champions, scored their first run of the contest.
“Oh my God, it feels so good. It really does,” North Douglas catcher Sofia Alcantar said. “I’m just happy for our seniors, they deserved it. We all deserved it.”
“State champs!” second baseman Riley Black said, putting some emphasis on those two words. “I think this one (title) might be sweeter. Because being a senior and the path we had (in the playoffs) — being on the road (at Bonanza and Grant Union) for a week. It’s real nice.”
Junior first baseman Natalie Draeger sparked the Warriors offensively, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs.
“I’m just thinking about the team,” Draeger said. “We went so far this year, compared to last year. Doing this again felt really good.
“It’s even crazier. More surreal, just because the last time we played in this game I was the designated batter. I was at first this year and got to hit. It was a crazy game.”
“I’m just really excited,” added third baseman Hope Ward. “I’m proud of all the girls. We went into this game ... I don’t want to say not nervous, but we definitely knew we had what it takes to win this again. I didn’t expect to score this much, but I’m happy.”
Derrick, of course, put North Douglas over the top this season after missing last year while recovering from ACL surgery. She was injured in her last basketball game of the 2018 season.
The junior right-hander didn’t give up a hit until the fourth inning, allowing six safeties and five earned runs in the contest. She struck out 16 and walked six.
“I’m super excited. This feeling (of winning a state championship) just doesn’t get old,” Derrick said. “People think you settle or you’re satisfied, but every season is different. This season we went through different stuff than last year. To be here, to win, is a whole different feeling.”
“Nicki is our key player,” Draeger said. “She’s the rock. She brings the whole team’s confidence up.”
The Warriors came through with a big offensive effort. Seven batters had at least one hit and knocked it at least one run. Two Kennedy pitchers combined to issue eight walks.
“Kennedy is a solid team,” N.D. coach Jesse Rice said. “Our bats came alive today. We stayed focused and didn’t chase bad pitches. The girls battled really well.”
Black finished with three hits, while Sofia Alcantar and Derrick each had two hits. Freshman Cydni Dill didn’t get a hit, but scored three times and had three RBIs.
“Everybody put the ball in play,” Black said. “Whether getting on (by a hit or walk) or moving a runner. We had more confidence.”
North Douglas rattled Kennedy starter Grace Schaecher in the third inning with its six-run outburst to hike its lead to 7-0. The Warriors capitalized on five hits, three walks and two Trojan errors.
Black lined an RBI double, Ward contributed a sacrifice fly and Draeger, Morgan MacDonald and Sofia Alcantar all had run-scoring hits in the inning.
“They (the Trojans) maybe got caught up in the moment and thinking about what they’re going to do once they had the ball,” Kennedy coach Walt Simmons said. “In a big game like this, you always hope they can keep those emotions aside and stay focused.”
“We had a really good mindset at the plate,” Draeger said. “We all knew we could hit the ball. (The third) set the momentum for the rest of the game. We never gave up hitting, so it was good.”
North Douglas added two runs more in the fourth to make it 9-0. Dill laid down a bunt and Derrick beat the throw to home. That chased Schaecher, who was relieved by Ellie Cantu.
Sofia Alcantar capped the scoring in the frame with an RBI single.
“I think we tensed up during the game,” Cantu said.
“I felt really good (when we were up 9-0),” Black said. “I knew we couldn’t let up, but I was real confident at that point.”
The Trojans — who have no seniors and three juniors on their roster — scored six runs over the next three innings, but it was too little, too late. And the Warriors kept tacking on runs.
“(The nine-run lead) was a good little cushion for me,” Derrick said. “It helped me relax a little bit, helped the team relax.”
“One through nine, everybody contributed today,” Rice said. “It was a great day.”
Lydia Berning was 2-for-3 with two RBIs for Kennedy.
Both clubs should be in the title hunt next year. North Douglas only loses two seniors, Black and centerfielder Joanna Alcantar.
Rice looks back to a loss to Central Linn in the league tournament as a turning point.
“More than anything, it was a wakeup call,” he said. “It got us ready for this.”
The Warriors brought their ‘A’ game at the perfect time.
N. Douglas 016 222 2 — 15 14 2
Kennedy 000 222 0 — 6 6 4
Derrick and S. Alcantar; Schaecher, Cantu (4) and Cuff. WP — Derrick. LP — Schaecher. 2B — Black (ND), Vaughn (ND), Derrick (ND). 3B — Cantu (K).
HITS — N.D. 14 (Draeger 4, Black 3, S. Alcantar 2, Derrick 2, Vaughn 1, Ward 1, MacDonald 1. Kennedy 6 (Berning 2, Cuff 1, Cantu 1, Kleinschmit 1, Suing 1).
RBIs — N.D. 12 (Draeger 3, Dill 3, S. Alcantar 2, Black 1, Vaughn 1, Ward 1, MacDonald 1. Kennedy 5 (Berning 2, Schaecher 1, Cantu 1, Kleinschmit 1).