Prairie softball takes 3A GSHL title

Phares delivers RBI single to win it in the 11th inning

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The Prairie softball team didn't have to win its game Friday.

But the Falcons sure felt great about how they won, how they remained unbeaten in league play.

The Falcons scored four runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, rallied again in the bottom of the 10th for another tie, and beat Mountain View in the 11th inning to clinch the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title.

Jamie Phares crushed a line-drive single to score Libby Cecil for the 6-5 victory.

"It felt amazing to be the one to finish this game," Phares said. "It was chaotic. With the celebration, it felt like I hit a home run."

The Falcons improved to 9-0 in league with one to play. Mountain View, which was trying to pull within a game and hope for a co-title with Prairie, fell to 6-3.

Had Prairie lost Friday, the Falcons still could have won the outright title with a win Monday.

"We knew, but we wanted to push it behind us and just think about this game," Phares said. "It was just another game."

Not just another comeback, though.

Prairie was held scoreless through six innings before Nicole Cresap hit a one-out double to get things started for the Falcons. After a walk and a ground out, Phares reached on an error that scored the first run of the frame. Taylor Bussey smacked a run-scoring single, then stole second to put runners on second and third.

Sarah Landstrom's grounder was mishandled for another Mountain View error, allowing the two runs to score to tie the game.

"We stayed focused by pumping each other up," Phares said. "We were just saying it was a zero-zero game, and we played our hardest. We felt confident with what we were doing."

The Thunder jumped on the Falcons with four runs in the top of the first. Katelyn Lukes, Lauren Warner and Jessica Alcomendas each drove in a run, while another scored on a Prairie error.

Prairie pitcher Irene McGuire, though, would not allow another earned run in the final 10 innings.

Mountain View pitcher Colleen Driscoll took the hard-luck loss despite giving up zero earned runs in 10-and-a-third innings. She struck out nine.

Mountain View would take the lead again in the 10th on Warner's two-out single to score Taylor Hale for a 5-4 advantage. But Prairie responded in the bottom of the inning on Sam Workman's run-scoring single.

Mountain View did nothing in the 11th.

Prairie's Nicole O'Haver sacrificed runner Cecil (who started the inning on second base, via softball international tiebreaker rule), and Phares came up to bat.

"Bussey (the on-deck batter) was saying, 'Stay calm and believe in yourself.' She gave me confidence at the plate," Phares said. "It was nerve-racking, but I believed I could do it."

Prairie hopes to complete an undefeated league season Monday against Kelso. Then the Falcons will advance directly to the district championship game.

"This group is so young and inexperienced, but they just build, build and build," Prairie coach Dawn Rowe said. "It's a really fun group."