Clatskanie — The top-ranked Tigers snuck past No. 2 Rainier (10-1) on Tuesday, winning a contest that matched the rivalry’s moniker, 6-5. With the Highway 30 Hootenanny victory, Clatskanie extended their win streak to a program-best 35 games.
Undaunted by their foes, the Columbians scored three runs with two outs in the top of the seventh to knot the game at 5-5. But in the bottom half of the frame Kylie Thomas came through in the clutch for a resilient Clatskanie bunch, walking the game off with her 13th hit of the season.
To be sure, in the biggest game of the year for both sides, the Highway 30 Hootenanny did not disappoint.
“A fun game. These games are essential for us and I wish our schedule was full of competitive games like the one we had tonight,” Clatskanie coach Kevin Sprague said.
As Rainier broke their huddle in the top of the first inning, Rainier chanted “First Blood!”
And first blood is what they drew. Rainier jumped out to a 1-0 lead in their first turn to the plate, as Alexis Crape sent a flyball to left field that plated a Columbian thanks to an error in the outfield.
However, the (still) defending State champions were quick to respond.
Kaity Sizemore got Clatskanie a two-out run when she singled to right field on an 0-2 count to tie the game.
The score would remain knotted at 1-1 until the bottom of the third. In the bottom half, Shelby Blodgett singled to left to score Olivia Sprague, which was followed up by Sizemore scoring Alexis Smith from third on a groundout.
Leading 3-1 after three innings, there would be another set of scoreless frames from Blodgett and Kyla Cook in the circle. Cook and Blodgett were dominant when facing the bottom parts of the order, which accounted for most of the zeroes that were thrown up.
In the fifth frame, Rainier was able to cut their deficit in half when Central Washington commit Reese Schimmel tripled to deep left field. The triple plated Ryli Gray from first base once again with two outs.
As the pendulum continued to swing back-and-forth, Alexis Smith stepped to the plate for Clatskanie with Sprague on first. Smith then unloaded on an 0-1 pitch, sending it over the right field fence.
“It didn’t even feel like a home run to be honest, I thought it’d be a double but it kept on going. To have a home run in such a big game feels so good, it’s great to see a lot of my hard work pay off.”
The home run put Clatskanie up 5-2, a lead that looked highly likely to be good enough for the win, but Rainier again refused to back down.
With two outs the Columbians were lethal from the plate all day long, and once again that killer magic came through for them in the seventh. After Crape shortened the gap to 5-3, Jamie Knox doubled with two outs on the board to tie the game at 5-5 and simultaneously send her dugout into jubilation.
The double for Knox was her third hit of the night, capping a strong showing with three hits in four at bats.
With the game again knotted, the mental fortitude of the Tigers was soon on full display in the last half inning. Actually, Clatskanie made the final act look simple when, on back-to-back full counts, Blodgett doubled, then Kylie Thomas came through with an RBI single to win the game in dramatic fashion.
“My approach was to find some outfield grass,” Thomas said. “I knew if I could drive something hard, there would be a great chance that Shelby would score.”
Game by game Thomas continues to come up in the clutch for the Tigers. Clatskanie’s Coach Sprague referred to her recent play as “a key addition.”
“She’s been able to come through for us during a time where we’re still looking to hit our stride,” coach Sprague added.
The loss for Rainier was their first of the season, but still leaves them in contention for the league championship. It also puts them in line for a shot at redemption later this week.
Clatskanie (8-0) will travel to Rainier on Friday for a doubleheader that’s currently up in the air based on weather forecasts. If everything goes according to plan, the two teams will face off starting at 3 p.m. to decide the Coastal Range League Championship.