HALSEY — Central Linn had yet to feel the intensity of a close softball game this spring, leaving coach Marcus Campbell and the Cobras curious how they would respond when the pressure was on them.
That challenge came Monday and Central Linn passed the test.
Run-scoring hits by Makenna Northern and Jamey Buckridge in the fifth inning followed by solid pitching and defense in the final two frames helped the Cobras to a 3-2 nonleague home win against Reedsport.
“We’ve been waiting for a game like this. This is playoff softball. We need to get ready for that,” said Campbell, whose undefeated team won eight of its first nine games by 10 runs or more. The other was by seven.
The Cobras (10-0) found themselves trailing for the first time this season beyond the second inning, down 2-1 after Reedsport (9-4) scored single runs in the third and fourth innings to take the lead. A Central Linn throwing error aided the Brave in taking the lead in the fourth.
The home team couldn’t capitalize with two runners on in the bottom of the frame. The fifth inning was a different story.
Jazmine Compton’s one-out double to right-center field off Reedsport pitcher Makenzie Seeley started the rally.
Northern’s two-out single, a liner to left, scored Compton ahead of a tag at home and Northern went to third on the throw to the plate. One batter later, Jamey Buckridge doubled over a leaping Jaedyn Mast in center field to bring home the go-ahead run.
That put the game in the hands of Cobras pitcher Bre Buckridge and the defense.
Reedsport came right back with a double and single to open the sixth. The Brave had a prime opportunity but couldn’t execute.
Baserunner Niki Cooper broke for second base and was tagged out there on a throw from Central Linn catcher Emma Johnson. But runner Michelle Martin never moved off of third base, leaving coach Jack Walker to turn to his dugout and ask “why didn’t Michelle score?”
It proved to be a big play.
Bre Buckridge got the batter at the plate, Mast, to pop up to first for the second out and then struck out Seeley to end the threat.
In the seventh, Reedsport’s Kaylee Stoltey hit a two-out double to left-center. But Central Linn third baseman Payton Holt picked up Essie Cardoso’s ensuing grounder and tossed it to Jamey Buckridge at first for the final out of the game.
“I think it was cool to see everybody step up, especially because we have such a young team and they haven’t been in that situation,” senior Jamey Buckridge said, noting the lack of tight games. “I think it was good to make sure that people know you have to make those plays.”
Bre Buckridge, a sophomore, finished with six strikeouts while allowing eight hits and a walk.
“She’s really stepped up this year and taken the role being our first pitcher, for sure,” said Northern, a senior. “Very level-headed and collected.”
Bre Buckridge has been sharing pitching duties with Kokoro Izumi, with Buckridge taking the circle in games that are anticipated to be close.
Campbell said his team’s primary strength has been its offense.
“One through nine, we put the kids in the lineup and they can hit the ball,” the coach said. “We had a lot of outs that were still hard-hit balls. All season long we’ve had breakout innings of scoring a lot. Today we didn’t need a lot, we just needed that one or two and we got ‘em when it really mattered the most.”
The Cobras are 6-0 in 2A/1A Special District 2 play. They’ve handed lone league losses to Kennedy (a 13-2 result) and Regis (11-1).
Central Linn doesn’t play either of those teams again until traveling to Kennedy in Mount Angel on April 30. The Cobras play both twice more.
The team’s next game is Wednesday at Santiam (5-7, 3-2) in a league game. The last remaining nonleague game on the Cobras’ schedule is Thursday at Monroe (4-2).