Community, Sports Zone

Billies clinch conference title in softball

PLEASANT HILL – Heading into Pleasant Hill’s softball doubleheader against No. 16 Creswell last Tuesday, the Billies were in a dead heat with No. 9 Harrisburg for the Mountain Valley Conference title. Needing two wins to secure the title outright, Pleasant Hill did just enough, taking down the rival Bulldogs 14-1 and 4-2 to win the MVC title in head coach Steve Williams’ first year at the helm.

“We, as a staff, always knew that the girls had it in them. We knew the talent was there, it was just about trying to find the right fit every day,” Williams said. “I’ve been really happy, like really, really happy with how they all came together.”

Kiley Campos (left) and Josie Dudley smile and laugh while jogging back to the dugout after an inning against Creswell.

Despite trusting that the talent level was there, the Billies had a less-than ideal start to the conference season, losing two early games to Harrisburg and Creswell. After a 4-3 loss against Creswell on April 18, Pleasant Hill was 8-4 overall and 4-2 in league, although two of those wins were forfeits over Sisters.

Since that loss to Creswell, the Billies have rattled off 12 straight wins to secure the conference championship and end the season ranked No. 6 in Class 3A. So what changed for Pleasant Hill at the midway point in the season?

“I think what changed was everyone really just finding their role, both their role as an individual and their role on the team,” Williams said. “Probably up until that Harrisburg or Creswell game, I was still looking for the right pieces every day of what was going to make us click and get us moving in a consistent direction. So I move pieces around quite a bit early on.”

Williams noted earlier in the season that he expected a slow start due to the new coaching staff trying out players at new positions. Once the team found its groove, it never looked back.

Raigan Obie makes a routine play during Pleasant Hill’s win over Creswell.

Now looking forward, Pleasant Hill’s road to contending is a difficult one. As the No. 6 team, assuming all the higher seeds win, Pleasant Hill’s road to the state title looks like: No. 11 Glide (16-6), No. 3 Burns (25-0, defending champs), No. 2 Yamhill-Carlton (23-4) and No. 1 Scio (21-1). A tall task, but one Williams is excited to face.

“Going into the playoffs is always a big thing. It’s one and done, so if you don’t show up and perform, anybody can take it from you. The big thing for us is to believe that we deserve to be there,” Williams said. “I think just getting that first-round win and building that confidence is going to be big, especially if we have to travel to Burns and face probably the best pitcher in Class 3A.”

That ace pitcher is junior Ayla Davies of Burns, who as of May 11 led the state in strikeouts-per-inning with 2.5 (239 total in 97 IP).

For Pleasant Hill’s round one game, Williams gets to face off against his former team in Glide. Williams was at the helm at Glide from 2016-19, amassing an overall record of 76-31 while leading the team to the postseason all four years and the quarterfinals three times. Glide’s current head coach, Sam Moyers, was Williams’ assistant during his time at Glide.

“Sam was my assistant all four years. He’s also the assistant on my summer team, so we’re really good friends,” Williams said. “We probably run almost the same system, or as close as you can get, although we each have our own opinions and variations. Many of the girls still in that program, I coached at the club level or at the high school level, so it’ll be a fun day, but it’ll be very weird.”

Pleasant Hill hosts Glide on Wednesday, May 24 at 5 p.m., with the quarterfinals slated for Friday, May 26.



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