Cottage Grove, Sports Zone

Pacheco’s pitching, hitting has Lions off to best start in program history

COTTAGE GROVE – Despite being over an hour inland, the tides are turning in Cottage Grove; for the Lions softball team — of course. 

Cottage Grove hosted Sweet Home last Tuesday in its final non-league game of the season, winning 9-2 and moving to 7-2 on the season – the best start in program history. The catalyst for the strong start is pitcher Emily Pacheco, who finished the Sweet Home win with 17 strikeouts and is up to 119 on the season.

“It is fun. I’ve never had quite that type of talent as a coach before, so I’m just enjoying it. It makes my job easier,” Lions third-year coach Adam Dimock said. “In softball, at the high-school level, pitching is everything. So if she’s successful, we’re gonna be successful. It’s fun to watch as a fan of the game, and she’s having a really special year. I don’t see why she can’t be a candidate for all-state pitcher.”

The junior right-hander added 2 hits, 1 run, and 5 RBI in the win – including an inside-the-park home run in the 3rd inning. Through 11 games, Pacheco has 119 Ks, 16 hits, 13 runs, and 14 RBI.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot better coming into this year of really not getting in my head. I feel like I’m better mentally this year, which has helped me along the way,” Pacheco said. “I’m proud of my team too, like the diving play that Makya (Alsup) had. Little errors happen here and there, nobody’s ever going to be perfect, but I’m still proud of every single one of them. I definitely have a team behind me that I can trust.”

PIERRE WEIL / THE CHRONICLE. Pacheco gets one of her two hits during Cottage Grove’s win over Sweet Home.

After the Sweet Home win, the Lions opened Sky-Em League play with two losses at defending league champion No. 6 Marshfield on Friday. Still, the 7-4 start has Cottage Grove ranked No. 11 in the state.

“Obviously, it’s nice. It’s a nice start. I just, I don’t want us to get comfortable. We’ve got a tough road ahead,” Dimock said. “We’ve got a lot of games that we’ve gotta get through. But I mean, yes, 7-2, you can’t really complain about that.”

Not only was the start of the season the best in program history, it also set up the program for other potential milestones. Dimock has looked back at record books and talked to other people with knowledge of the program, and wasn’t able to find any evidence that the team has won the Sky-Em League before, or even made the postseason. 

“I could be wrong, but I think that these last two years are the first time we’ve made the play-in as well,” he added.

In the Oregon School Activities Association record books, the Lions have won 10+ games only twice – 10 in 2014, and 13 in ’22, Dimock’s first season at the helm.

“We have trophy cases, and they’re empty,” Dimock said. “If (we do make the playoffs), I’m gonna call it the first time because I believe it is. I really believe it is, and I think it’d be pretty historic for us. I want to get something in that trophy case for the girls.”

To earn that hardware Pacheco will need to sustain her all-state level performance. Pacheco has added pressure as well as she was voted a junior captain for the Lions, though she’s welcomed the additional challenge.

“I don’t see it as really a burden, I see it as an opportunity to speak out and to help guide people. I’ve had quite a few experiences in my years of playing softball. I’ve played since I was five,” Pacheco said. “My coach told me to step up in the leadership role, especially being in the circle, so I feel like this has given me a great opportunity to help guide the team, and help them with anything that they can do as well.”

The doubleheader defeat to Marshfield is a setback for Cottage Grove early, but there are still 10 league games to go before the finish line. The top two teams in each league earn automatic playoff bids, so even without a league title, the Lions can still reach their playoff goal. If you’re going to break program records, though, why not shoot for the stars?

“Our goal is to win the Sky-Em championship. That’s what we want. That’s what we got out here for this year, and I think they can do it,” Dimock said. “There’s a few things that need to happen, but if they can hit the ball, I think they can do it.”



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