ATHENA - Weston-McEwen is the last team standing in Special District 5.
The TigerScots continued their miraculous postseason run with a case of hot bats, stellar defense and Karissa Griggs' 10 strikeouts to beat Nestucca 4-1, earning a trip to Friday's OSAA Classes 2A-1A State Championships final at Oregon State University. It marks the first time in school history Weston-McEwen has made it to a state softball final.
"It's going to be on graduation (day), but we're pumped to go, and we're going to back to playing it one pitch, one inning and one game at a time," said coach Jeff Griggs, reciting the team's approach to postseason play. "That's how we've been playing it."
The day started with the possibility of an all-Special District 5 showdown for the state championship, but Elgin-Imbler of Special District 6 thwarted that plan with a 2-1, eight-inning victory at SD5 regular-season champion Pilot Rock, which Weston-McEwen beat in the district tournament final.
"It doesn't really matter what team we play at this point, because either team would be really tough," said senior pitcher Karissa Griggs, who in a complete game struck out 10 Bobcats - including three in a row twice - and gave up five hits, all singles. "So, we're just going to go down there the same way, and we're just going to play our hearts out."
The TigerScots (20-10) had seven hits off junior Caitlin Finnell, who also went the distance. Sophomore Kelsey Hasenbank went 2 for 3 with three RBI to lead the TigerScots.
"I think they were just able to have hits in opportune times, and we couldn't," Nestucca coach Jolene McKechnie said.
Hasenbank, a designated player, hit a two-out single on the first pitch to score Griggs from second in the bottom of the first. Griggs led off the side reaching on a dropped third strike.
Hasenbank got her second and third RBI in the third, singling to right to give the TigerScots a 4-1 edge. It was the fourth hit in six at-bats that frame; senior Kayla Schroeder made the game's only extra base hit by doubling in Jamie Miley (2 for 2), and Oshana Sampson knocked in Schroeder to bring up Hasenbank.
"This is what we call a team win," Jeff Griggs said.
Nestucca (17-7) threatened to come back with three straight singles to begin the fourth, but Karissa Griggs retired three of the next four batters, giving up an RBI fielder's choice by junior Caitlin Measor.
"She had a little bit of a curve that threw our girls off a little bit," McKechnie said.
From that point, Nestucca left only one other runner in scoring position.
The defense had to shine in the sixth with running catches by left fielder Ashley Bagdon, right fielder Sampson and shortstop Noel Griggs to stop another golden opportunity for the Bobcats.
"I think once the momentum takes hold, then plays make other plays happen," McKechnie said. "So, one phenomenal play will manufacuture another defensive play."
"It really helped that my team was there," Karissa Griggs said. "When they had those big hits, my team just caught those there, and it was very helpful to have the defense behind me."
Griggs struck out the first two Bobcat batters in the seventh, and Sampson hauled in a fly ball for the last out, starting the TigerScot celebration at second base after the game. A couple of minutes later, a group of high school boys sprinted from beyond right field and joined in for a little pandemonium.
"We're just real excited because we've never been this far, and it's just amazing," Karissa Griggs said.
The historic victory had Hasenbank, who's helped Weston-McEwen come from third place in the district regular-season standings to a spot in the state final, shed tears of joy afterward.
"I'll probably get a little more emotional on Friday, but I'm just so happy to be here and to be able to play," she said.
Hasenbank said confidence, along with Griggs' pitching and outstanding defense has helped the TigerScots.
"I'm just excited to be in this uniform and play with the TigerScots," she said. "Even if we didn't make it this far, I'd still be happy in this uniform. Not many people get to experience championships in their high school careers, and I'm just happy to be one of them."
R H E
NEST (17-7) 000 100 0 - 1 5 0
WMHS (20-10) 103 000 x - 4 7 1
Caitlin Finnell and Katylyn Royster; Karissa Griggs and Kayla Schroeder. W - Griggs (17-3); L - Finnell
2B - Schroeder (Weston-McEwen).