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MONROE — Central Linn has a Friday doubleheader at North Douglas that will have significant implications on the 2A/1A Special District 3 softball standings and the state playoff bracket.

But first the Cobras had to get past Monroe, a team that pushed them in a mid-April game in Halsey before Central Linn held on 4-3.

The teams met again Thursday and both teams found more offense than they did the first time around with a total of five home runs, three by Monroe in sixth-ranked Central Linn’s 24-9 victory in six innings.

Both squads were unhappy about uncharacteristic mistakes.

Central Linn (21-2, 14-1) scored 15 runs between the fifth and sixth innings, and all 15 were unearned, meaning the runs came after the third outs should have been recorded. Monroe (9-6) had five errors in those two frames and 10 for the game. Central Linn had two. 

The Cobras have a potent offense, and after Thursday they lead the small-school division in runs, averaging more than 15 per contest.

“It bailed us out, because we weren’t good in a whole lot of other areas,” said Central Linn coach Marcus Campbell, whose team had two errors. “I didn’t feel comfortable until we got our last two or three runs and made the margin 15. I told the girls, that’s not a compliment. We’re up 12 runs, but at the rate we were giving them back I didn’t feel safe.”

Payton Holt had three hits and seven RBIs, including a grand slam in the third inning that put the Cobras ahead 5-2. Teammate Sydney Northern had two hits and five RBIs with doubles in the fourth and fifth that accounted for all her runs driven in.

“We’ve always been trying to look forward to North Douglas but also take it one game at a time,” Holt said, adding that her team wanted to use the Monroe game to prepare for the Warriors because there was no time for practice.

The Cobras will play their fifth and sixth games of the week Friday.

Central Linn’s Jazmine Compton, Brianna Beauchamp and Ally Crowell also had two hits. Beauchamp had a two-run home run in the fifth, when the Cobras scored seven runs with two outs. They added eight with two outs in the sixth.

“We’re young. We’ve got a lot of girls who haven’t played a lot,” said Monroe coach Richard Fielder, who saw his team’s seven-game winning streak end. “We’ll get there. We’ll keep working at it. We’ll get better.”

Cora Gwynn, Ella Meza and Emily Taylor all hit home runs for the Dragons.

Gwynn’s two-run shot gave Monroe a 2-1 lead in the first. The other two came in the fifth as the Dragons chipped away at a 10-run deficit and extend the game another inning.

Callie Horning had three hits and the three home run hitters two apiece for the home team. Gwynn and Meza each had three RBIs.

Fielder said the errors were especially tough because Tyler Warden was pitching at a high level.

“She pitched well, we just had trouble making plays behind her. We hit the ball really well, just struggled on defense,” he said. “We’ve been winning, we’ve been fighting. But a lot those games we’ve been winning, Tyler is striking out a lot.”

In a battle of junior pitchers that went the distance, Warden struck out 11 and walked seven. The Cobras’ Kelsey Crowson had eight strikeouts and two walks.

Central Linn is eyeing another deep playoff run. It’s a program that’s made success a tradition after reaching the state quarterfinals five straight years, including a 2018 semifinal appearance.

The Cobras have scored double digits in all of their wins except the first game against Monroe. The two losses have come against Toledo and Oakland, ranked second and ninth, respectively, in this week’s 2A coaches poll.

Central Linn has been tested in Special District 3, with North Douglas (13-0), the Cobras (14-1) and Oakland (10-2) all bunched at the top of the standings and Monroe not far behind.

Central Linn heads into the final stretch of the season with nine returners from last season.

“I knew we were going to be good … but maybe not to this level,” Campbell said. “I never believed we would score this many runs. We haven’t peaked yet, which is a good thing.”

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