DALLAS — It’s been four years since the Central High School Panthers softball team defeated their Polk County rival.
On April 12, the Panthers walked off the Dallas Dragon’s home field with a 3-0 shutout.
Senior Mariah Hyre was all smiles afterward. She said winning this game meant a lot for her personally, and for the team, as it’s been so long since they’ve come away with a victory.
“It’s an achievement,” she said, “and it’s so — I can’t even explain how I feel right now, it’s just awesome.”
The game started out slow, the Panthers (4-7 overall, 1-1 Mid-Willamette Conference) going scoreless until the sixth inning, when senior Mariah Hyre sliced the ball out of the park for a home run.
From there, the Panthers’ energy amplified, the girls screaming out encouragements from the dugout.
That energy was what Hyre said helped the team pick up the win.
“We’ve been working on the same things (all season), but I think it’s our attitudes and our energy, and it just keeps getting better and better,” she said. “The whole entire dugout was super involved in this game, and that helped so much; I don’t think people realize it until they see the outcome at the end. And today really showed the dugout does matter.”
Central head coach Amber McLean said this win locked in the goal she had for the team this week.
“Our goal this week was to come away from West Albany and Dallas with at least one win, hoping for two, but we met our goal of the one,” she said. “And it was a great game.”
The Panthers had five hits total, with runs from Hyre, senior Kassidy Noon, and junior Sydney Nash. Hyre also nabbed one RBI.
Senior Emily Cole pitched all seven innings, allowing just two hits, and firing 14 strikeouts.
On the Dragons’ side, senior Kaelynn Simmons pitched the entire game, allowing five hits, three runs, and striking out 11.
This game wasn’t the result the Dragons (6-4 overall, 1-1 MWC) expected to come away with. Their energy appeared lacking, and they couldn’t seem to recover from it.
“Honestly, I’m not quite sure why our energy was so low,” said Simmons. “I don’t know.”
She said it was a tough loss.
“Central’s our rival, and we just didn’t come to hit,” she said.
Dallas head coach Brandi Jackson said it’s all about who shows up to play that game, and that today, Dallas didn’t.
“We talk a lot about the energy that you have, simply in warm ups, can set the tone for the game, and I didn’t feel like we brought that really well, and hats off to (Central) because they did.”
One factor that led to the loss was a poor performance at-bat.
“I think that that was probably some of the not-so-great at-bats that we’ve had all year,” Jackson said. “That’s something that we’ve been doing really well, is hitting and making adjustments and having quality at-bats, and today I didn’t feel like we had that, so, that was a little rough. Hats off to (Central’s) pitcher. I thought she threw great, and obviously shut us down.”
This game was an eye-opener, Jackson said.
“But you know, it’s important for us to understand that anything can happen, and we’re not just going to run all over people.”
Central hosted Silverton (2-10 overall, 0-3 MWC) on Tuesday after press time. The Dragons traveled to South Albany (3-8 overall, 2-1 MWC) on Tuesday after press time.