WOODLAND — Wednesday’s 2A Greater St. Helens League softball showdown between Ridgefield and Woodland was pegged as the pitchers’ duel of the season. Rightfully so.
Spudders’ ace Kaia Oliver is headed to Syracuse next season and Woodland hurler Olivia Grey is bound for Portland State.
“They’re the best two pitchers, maybe, in the state,” Woodland coach Tom Christensen said.
The two did not disappoint on Wednesday, combining for 24 strikeouts and four hits allowed in a brisk 67-minute affair.
Grey’s 16 strikeouts combined with three Ridgefield errors were enough to lift the Beavers (9-0, 3-0 2A GSHL) to a 4-0 victory.
“It really shows me what’s going to happen at the next level,” Grey said of the third ever meeting between the two Division I signees.
Grey has struck out 149 batters in 59 innings this season. She’s allowed 13 hits and zero earned runs. Yet, she’s constantly on the lookout for ways to improve.
“You can never be too good,” she said.
Grey was very good on Wednesday. She struck out the side to open the game, setting the stage for what was to come.
When she did allow baserunners — via two hits and two hit batters — her defense was there to pick up the slack. Kelly Sweyer came up with a heads-up double play on a popup bunt in the second inning to highlight the Beavers’ defense, which has avoided being lulled to sleep by Grey’s ability to send batters packing without their help.
“We do a lot of drills in practice and put a lot of pressure on them,” Christensen said. “I’ll make them do something over and over and over until we can’t get it wrong. I can tell it frustrates them at practice but I explain that the reason I’m doing this is so they can play when the pressure is on.”
Woodland’s one error Wednesday proved inconsequential. Ridgefield (6-3, 1-1) couldn’t say the same.
All four Woodland runs came unearned, as Payten Foster’s double in the second preceded a throwing error to open the scoring. The Beavers added three more on a pair of Spudder errors in the third.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Oliver had allowed just four earned runs and 18 hits through 35 innings this season. She ran her season total to 59 strikeouts and allowed just two hits — Foster’s double and a Carleigh Risley two-RBI single.
“Was it an important game? Yeah, it was kind of an important game,” Ridgefield coach Dusty Anchors said. “But when you take a step back and look at the big picture, it’s just one of 20 games. If you look at it properly, this one game makes you stronger for the rest of the season.”
After all, the Spudders will have to see Grey at least once more this season, if not twice or three times when all is said and done. Learning from Wednesday could prove the difference, as it did when the Spudders topped Woodland 4-3 in the second meeting last season. Anchors said his job is to make sure the girls don’t panic down the stretch, which starts with Mark Morris on Thursday in Longview.
Woodland, on the other hand, is feeling confident for another extended postseason run after taking home the 2A state title last season. The Beavers travel to R.A. Long on Thursday.
“I think before spring break we were just going through the motions and being a little lackadaisical,” Christensen said. “I think having more of a sense of urgency, that’s been a difference maker.”