West Albany High needs to keep winning if it wants to play on its home field for a deep run in the 5A softball state playoffs.
The Bulldogs made another positive step in that direction Wednesday after celebrating their four seniors and their final regular-season home game before taking on Corvallis.
Sophomores did their part, as Ellie Babbitt hit a three-run home run and Riley Ramirez was 4 of 4 at the plate in a 10-3 Mid-Willamette Conference win.
Fellow sophomores Presley Jantzi and McKenzie Kosmicki had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs (19-2, 12-0). Katie Sinclair had a home run and a double and Ruby Krebs a two-run single for the visiting Spartans (7-12, 6-7).
West senior pitcher Mahayla Gamble (19-2) went the distance in the circle, allowing six hits and one walk with six strikeouts.
“It’s kind of like saying thank you to them because of how hard they work for us all season, especially Mahayla,” Ramirez said of getting the win. “She’s pitched every single game. So we wanted to make sure we send them off on a good note.”
Babbitt’s homer came in the first against Corvallis junior Taylor Silbernagel, who also pitched a complete game. Silbernagel struck out four and walked one while giving up 13 hits.
Ramirez added a RBI single in the second and the Bulldogs broke it open with five in the third. Sidnee Holloway drove in a run with a hit, while Riley Lloyd and Babbitt had RBI sacrifice flies.
Krebs’ two-run hit came in the fourth, and West got a run back in the fifth on Kosmicki’s RBI single. Sinclair led off the sixth with her homer to complete the scoring.
Ramirez said she had a simple approach in her strong hitting day.
“I was just calming myself down and knowing that I was playing for something more than myself. Really trying to make sure that we get the win for our seniors,” she said.
Both teams have important four-game stretches to close the regular season.
West has already wrapped up a state playoff spot and needs to finish in the top four in the final 5A power rankings to ensure home games through the state semifinals if the Bulldogs advance.
“We are telling the girls right now, we can’t look past the next opponent. This league has some really good competition,” West coach Ryan Borde said. “We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game every game, especially with our record right now. We have a big target on our back and somebody wants to knock us off. It’s who is it going to be? But we know we’ve got to show up to the field.”
The Bulldogs were fourth and Dallas fifth in the ever-changing power rankings Wednesday night. Those teams meet at Dallas on Friday. West won the first matchup, 14-5.
The Mid-Willamette’s top four teams advance to the OSAA’s 16-team bracket. Also, the team higher in the power rankings between the MWC’s and Midwestern League’s fifth-place squads gets the final berth in the bracket.
With Wednesday’s loss, Corvallis is 1.5 games back of fourth-place Lebanon, a team that won both games against the Spartans this season, including a 10-4 road victory Tuesday.
Corvallis was 2-2 earlier this season against the four teams remaining on its schedule. The Spartans host third-place Central on Friday.
Spartans co-coach Karmen Tessier said she liked the progress she saw from her team against the Bulldogs.
“I think we took great cuts. We have really been working throughout the season to jump on a pitcher earlier on instead of waiting to get deep in the count. I think they did a great job of that,” she said. “They did a nice job of taking Mahayla’s outside pitch and going with it and making really good connection.”
But Corvallis had problems on defense, an area that’s often plagued the Spartans. Four errors led to four unearned runs.
“That has been our biggest struggle this year is one, not giving up the errors, but then having another error follow the error,” Tessier said. “Being able to shut that off and not have the snowball effect is something that’s been really difficult for our defense.”
Silbernagel is a drop-ball pitcher and regularly draws a large number of grounders. Tessier praised her for keeping West’s batters off-balance, keeping the ball on the ground and limiting the number of hard shots.