A truly magical season concluded June 3 for the Tri-Valley Conference Champion The Dalles High Riverhawks (26-3) as they won the OSAA Class 4A softball state championship, 16-0, over the Henley High Hornets (22-4) at the University of Oregon's Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene.
The Riverhawks, guided by first-year Coach Lindy Macnab, brought home a sparkling, first place trophy, which marked their first championship since 1994 and their second one in school history. According to the Oregonian/OregonLive, the trophy represents the most lopsided championship in state history, the prior record being 13, when Harrisburg beat Central Linn 14-1 in 2000.
“I am extremely proud of the team; they worked hard all year, and they sent a clear message who the best team in the state is,” said Macnab, who played on the 1994 championship squad. “It has just been one of those purely magical years. We’ll have a strong freshman class coming into the school next year and of course our JV team (19-4 record) was pretty good this year, too. So hopefully, we’ll have a program that will be quite successful for many years to come.”
The Dalles won the Class 3A 1994 title, 4-3, over the Glide High Wildcats. Saturday’s game marked the third title appearance for The Dalles, which also reached the finals in 2004 (a 2-0 loss to the Elmira High Falcons). The Dalles assistant Coach Jayme Scherrer played on that 2004 state runner-up squad. Dane Way, who was an assistant coach on the 1994 squad, attended the game along with approximately 200 Riverhawk fans.
“We had a lot of community support, and it was pretty overwhelming to see how many people showed up for the game at Eugene,” said Macnab. “It has really been a special year filled with a rallying community that has been very excited about the softball team. That was a rewarding experience for me, too, and seeing so many people getting excited to watch the girls play was pretty incredible.”
Prior to the contest, The Dalles junior Zoe LeBreton sang the National Anthem on the big stage of the state championship game. LeBreton’s incredible singing performance seemingly provided the Riverhawks an uplifting confidence boost which definitely showed in the way they played.
The victory was similar to many of the Riverhawks’ wins this year, as they utilized their offensive firepower (12 runs per game average), which included an OSAA record breaking, single season all-time total of 70 home runs. The Dalles High 2023 graduate and TVC pitcher-of-the-year, Kennedy Abbas (five strikeouts), tossed a one-hitter.
The Riverhawks gained momentum in the first inning when Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Jeilane Stewart (2-for-4, three RBI) reached first base on a Hornet error. Stewart ran to second on a sacrifice bunt by LeBreton (1-for-2, three RBI), the TVC player-of-the-year. Stewart then reached third on a wild pitch by Henley junior pitcher Annie Campos (five strikeouts, four walks) and she scored on another wild pitch putting The Dalles up, 1-0.
After a scoreless second inning, the Riverhawks took control of the contest with a seven-run third, highlighted by Stewart’s three-run homer over the 220-foot center field fence. Sophomore Madison Brock and Kaleyah Crichton-Tunai (1-for-3) each drove in a run and the Riverhawks scored twice on a Campos wild pitch.
The Dalles extended its lead to 11-0 in the fourth, highlighted by LeBreton’s two-RBI single and Despina Seufalemua’s RBI double. The Riverhawks then added five runs in the fifth, aided by two Hornets’ errors. LeBreton and Seufalemua each had RBIs in the rally to extend the margin to 16-0 and end the contest early via the Mercy Rule. The Riverhawks had 11 hits.
For 2023 The Dalles High graduated seniors - Abbas, Ella Smith (1-for-2) and Lillian Schatz - it was an absolutely incredible way for them to cap their Riverhawk softball career - helping lead their team to the championship in their final game.
“I’m really going to miss them (seniors) very, very much,” said Macnab. “This was a special year for me since it was my first year. Getting to know each one of the players individually and seeing them through such a special season like this was pretty exciting, especially for our seniors. It will be nice to see what they’ll have for the next chapter in their life.”
The Riverhawks’ 16 runs broke the previous record (15) for the most runs ever scored in any championship game classification (1A-6A) and the margin of victory was also the highest ever for all finals games.
The win was the Riverhawks’ 11th shutout of the season and their 18th double-digit victory. The Skyline Conference Champion Hornets reached the title game following a, 10-9, semifinal home win over the No. 4 ranked Pendleton High Buckaroos (23-7) on May 30. The Riverhawks advanced to the championship game with a, 3-1, semifinal win over the Scappoose High Indians (21-6) onMay 30 at 16th Street Ballpark in The Dalles.
“These are the type of games that they need to play and it’s nice getting a win like this,” Macnab said of the semifinal. “There were so many great things that happened in the game, especially defensively. I’m just proud of the way Kennedy pitched and I’m proud of how well we played defense, particularly by Zoe at shortstop, who made some great plays. They (Indians) seemed to be hitting the ball into play often and our defense just kept coming up big and making plays. Maddie Brock played amazing defense, as well.”
The Dalles went up 1-0 in the first inning when Stewart (2-for-4) slammed a solo home run over the 190-foot right field fence. Following a scoreless second, the Riverhawks extended their lead to 3-0 in the third, highlighted by an RBI double by Seufalemua (2-for-2) and an RBI single by Madalynn Sagapolutele (1-for-2).
Scappoose, the third-place team from the Cowapa League, trimmed the margin with a run in the fourth. The Indians actually had a batter representing the go-ahead run at the plate but stranded two baserunners. Scappoose nearly overcame the narrow, two-run deficit in the fifth and sixth innings as they also had batters representing the go-ahead run at the plate.
“Our bats didn’t quite come alive the way I would’ve liked them too, but we played a good short game,” said Macnab. “Jeilane hit the second pitch out of the park, which was a great starting point for us. We didn’t see the numbers on the scoreboard like we usually see, but this was a really good game. They (Indians) were one of the toughest opponents that we’ve faced this year.”
The Riverhawks’ No. 1-ranked defense (2.55 runs per game average allowed) made key plays to prevent the Indians from scoring. The Riverhawks outhit the Indians, 9-6. Abbas, who was 1-for-3 offensively, had a solid performance in the pitching circle by striking out five.
“It was good that we came out and played together so well as a team in a clutch situation like this to get a win,” said Abbas. “All 13 of us have worked our butts off so hard to get where we are on the field and also academically in the classroom and I’m just super proud of our team.”
The contest marked the final home game of the careers of Abbas, Smith (1-for-3), and Schatz.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more for my senior year and it has truly been a blessing to have these girls as my teammates and have such great coaches too,” said Smith. “We have gone above and beyond what I could’ve literally asked for this year, and this really fulfills our dreams of what we wanted this season.”
Schatz, a reserve role player who had a limited amount of playing time throughout the season, didn’t play versus Scappoose, but she had a pinch hit at-bat in the fifth inning of the title game versus Henley.
“It was really exciting to get the win over Scappoose and reach the championship game, which is like a dream come true,” said Schatz. “I definitely felt very nervous because it was so close, and we haven’t had many games like this. I had faith in my team though and I knew that they would pull through and get the win.”
“They (seniors) were pretty emotional, and we took a moment during our postgame meeting to honor them and there were a lot of tears,” said Macnab. “Lillian played in our league games, and she played on senior night (a 10-0home win over Estacada on May 11) and she’s a heck of a kid. She’s a role player, and she has a great attitude. This is a very competitive team and so it’s hard as a coach to find playing time for everyone.