When it comes to playoff softball, The Dalles Wahtonka finds a way to flip the switch for a memorable run.
For the past five seasons, they have done so, making trips to the semifinals along the way.
At 5 p.m. tonight in The Dalles, the No. 15-ranked Eagle Indians look to get off on the right foot with a state play-in contest versus the No. 21 Corvallis Spartans.
Corvallis enters this playoff round as losers of seven of their final 10 games. In that span, they have scored 54 runs and given up 79, but 31 of the runs scored came against Woodburn (18) and South Albany (13), two teams that ended the season with a combined 8-40 record.
The Spartans are led in the circle by sophomore Colette Stein, who has pitched in every game but one.
On the season, she has allowed three runs or less seven times this season, with one shutout.
Along with Stein, Corvallis coach Sami Keim sends out first baseman Lexi Carter, junior catcher Chloe Rodman and senior centerfielder Amanda Gonzales.
Staked by this group, the Spartans have scored 174 runs and eclipsed 11 or more on the scoreboard eight times.
In order to keep that offense to a minimum, the Eagle Indians rely on seniors Carley Gowdy and Melanie Taphouse and junior Morgan Triperinas.
That staff has allowed three runs or less six times this season, including one run three times in wins over Marist, Hillsboro and Hood River Valley.
Bend scored three runs on March 16, and 6A Lakeridge managed four runs in an eight-inning win.
Facing a similar flight into the postseason is No. 15 The Dalles Wahtonka, a team that kicks off action tonight riding a five-game losing streak and seven of their last nine.
On the year, this team, which had first-team athletes Katherine Kramer, Taphouse, Triperinas and freshman Hannah Harris, has racked up 149 runs.
Ever since a 9-8 road win over No. 1-ranked Pendleton on April 20, a game where Kella DeHart slugged a grand slam, TDW has gone 1-7 and scored an average of 1.75 runs a matchup.
“We have got to have top-notch performances from our defense and our hitters and our pitchers,” said TDW head coach Steve Garrett. “We can’t seem to get any of those three going well together in a game right now. That is where we are as a team. It is about combining all three. We have shown that if we can get all those facets going, we can beat anyone we face.”
In the past few years, the Columbia River Conference has been hailed as the toughest in the state. Both TDW and Pendleton were in the Final-4 last season, as the Buckaroos went on to win a state crown. Knowing that, TDW coach Steve Garrett feels his group can get things going against some non-league competition.
“What we are facing and what we have faced in this league are very seasoned teams,” the coach said. “Of 11 players on our roster, we have 12 years of varsity experience and Pendleton has four players with 14 years, so that says a lot.”
Some of that inexperience comes through in scattered moments whether it getting situational outs, knowing where to throw the ball or just making the routine plays in the field.
“All those little things that could have been an out here or there and weren’t converted, set up big innings,” Garrett said. “That is hurting us right now. We talk about these things and about getting outs in certain situations. We don’t have the experience so we need to combat that by not making errors. We have to make it up by playing at the top of our game all the time.”
If TDW nets a win, they will hit the diamond again on Wednesday, May 22.