Who would have guessed the Irrigon Knights would be facing the Gaston Greyhounds in the semifinals of the Class 2A/1A softball state championships?

Apparently not the panel of coaches voting in the polls this season, as neither was ranked in the top 10 in the final poll that was released May 14.

And probably nobody else with much knowledge of Oregon softball history.

The game marks the furthest an Irrigon team in any sport has advanced in the state playoffs since the school reformed in 2005, though the wrestling team does boast a state champion.

Gaston is in a similar situation, as prior to coach Jerry Mettee's arrival in 2005 the Greyhounds weren't even an afterthought when it came to the playoffs. The Greyhounds are in their second postseason appearance under Mettee after being ousted in the second round last season.

But both teams have put together an impressive playoff run that has included a pair of wins over ranked opponents.

Irrigon (17-8, 6-5 Special District 5) started off with an 11-1 win over No. 9 Chiloquin, then defeated No. 1 Enterprise-Joseph 6-2 on Friday.

Gaston (18-8, 10-2 Special District 1) began their tournament with a 2-1 win over No. 6 Scio, then knocked off No. 4 Monroe by the same score.

Monroe defeated Knights' conference foe Weston-McEwen 2-1 in the second round.

Gaston entered the playoffs as the second seed out of Special District 1, and put up similar numbers to the Knights, scoring 169 runs while allowing just 57 - the second fewest in Class 2A/1A behind Pilot Rock's 32. Irrigon scored 134 runs while allowing 73 - sixth best in the state.

Both teams relied heavily on a veteran hurler and much like Irrigon's Noelle Wright, Gaston's Katrina Rios is able to take over a game on offense and defense.

Wright didn't have her best outing in the Knights' win over Enterprise-Joseph, but was spot on in their 11-1 win over Chiloquin, striking out 12.

Coach Jake McElligott said the long bus ride to Chiloquin gave his team plenty of time to goof off, but they remained intensely focused the entire time and it showed on the field.

Though a much shorter trip, the Knights will hope for the same outcome Tuesday in Gaston. The Greyhounds are 9-1 at home this season.


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