One year ago, the Lebanon High School varsity softball team lost eight of its first nine games before turning its season around and reaching the semifinals of the 5A state playoffs.
This year's squad has gotten off to a much stronger start. The Warriors went 6-3 in their nonconference schedule with victories over Crook County, Scappoose, Milwaukie, Eagle Point, Churchill and North Valley.
The Warriors faced Dallas in their Mid-Willamette Conference opener on Tuesday, April 9. The Dragons won that contest 10-4, but the Warriors rebounded with a 14-5 victory over visiting Silverton on Wednesday and a 13-1 win at Crescent Valley on Friday.
Head coach Mardy Benedict said Dallas' all-state pitcher Kaelynn Simmons was outstanding early in the game. Simmons missed much of the early part of the schedule, but had full command against the Warriors.
"She threw well early with a lot of good pace. Got the girls thinking too much," Benedict said.
Despite falling behind 10-1 through three innings, the Warriors didn't quit.
"Girls really battled late in the game, got a bunch of base runners. I was proud of the girls for competing and staying in it," Benedict said.
Trinity Holden had two hits and an RBI for the Warriors. Nicole Bender added a hit, drove in two runs and walked twice.
Against Silverton, the Warriors built a 6-0 lead through four innings before allowing five runs in the fifth. Lebanon rebounded with seven runs in the sixth.
Johnson led the way with two hits, a home run and a double, and two RBIs. Mckenzie Crenshaw had three hits, including a double, and an RBI. Holden and Rylie Milligan each doubled and Taylor Edwards added a triple.
In the circle, Johnson gave up one hit with three strikeouts and two walks in 2⅓ innings. Edwards allowed five earned runs in 4⅔ with six strikeouts and six walks.
"That was a good win for us," Benedict said.
The Warriors closed out their week with the rout of the Raiders.
Holden had two doubles and four RBIs with three runs scored. Johnson had two doubles, drove in a run and scored twice. Milligan added three hits, two of them doubles, and scored two runs. Ella Myers also doubled and drove in three runs.
Johnson allowed one earned run on five hits over five innings with six strikeouts and a walk.
"We pitched well, played good defense, did some really good things," Benedict said. "We did what we should do."
The Warriors are scheduled to host Corvallis on Tuesday, April 16. North Salem will visit Lebanon on Friday.