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The Eagles lead 9-1, then hold on as the Lions bring the winning run to the plate in the seventh

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Centennial senior Hadley Cook gets a high five from coach Steve Baker after hitting a two-run homer in the first inning of the Eagles' 10-7 win over West Linn on Monday at Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn.The Centennial softball team hit the ground running on Monday night.

Sprinting, even.

West Linn, meanwhile, came back late with its closer's kick.

In the end, the Eagles' fast start carried the day, lifting the team to a 10-7 win over the Lions at Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn.

"I think that in earlier games, we just haven't done that. We haven't gotten our bats going early and that was bad for us in the end because we had to try to come back," said Centennial sophomore right fielder Naomi Maldonado, who went 3 for 4 at the plate, drove in two runs and scored once. "It was better for us to get ahead in the beginning and, not know that we'd won, but have that lead and have a little leeway."

"It meant a lot (to get ahead early)," said Centennial senior catcher Hadley Cook, who went 2 for 5 with a homer, a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. "We'd been struggling. In a lot of the games, it's been, like, the fifth inning before we started to hit so to actually hit in the beginning, that was really good. We were more pumped, we were more energized then normal."

With the win, Centennial snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 5-4 in non-league play. West Linn, meanwhile, lost for the 10th straight time and fell to 0-10 on the young season.

Despite that, the Lions — who rallied from a 9-1 deficit and brought the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning — were proud of their comeback and convinced they'll be competitive in the Three Rivers League.

"I'm really proud of the way our team stepped up in these later innings," said West Linn senior third baseman Paige Mueller, who went 3 for 5 at the plate with two RBIs and one run scored. "It's amazing how resilient some of these girls are to just go up there and hit the ball."

"I think we definitely started showing up later in the innings, which we normally do," added West Linn junior left fielder Lauren Amesquita, who went 3 for 4 with a homer, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored. "That's normally how we end up."

West Linn-Centennial Softball

The Eagles kick started their efforts with three runs in the top of the first inning, getting a sacrifice fly from Ellie Greene that plated Ashley Hawkins, and then, a two-run homer to center field by Cook that also scored Trislynn Schmelling. Schmelling had doubled earlier in the inning.

After West Linn failed to score in its half of the first, Lions' pitcher Lexi Finke escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second, then saw her team get on the scoreboard in the its next at-bat. There, with two outs, Amesquita tripled over Maldonado's head to deep right field, then scored when Ali Campbell singled down the first base line to make it 3-1.

But the Lions' early comeback hopes were dashed in the top of the third when the Eagles poured across five more runs to grab an 8-1 lead. Cook got things started with a one-out double to right, Mia Bratcher reached base on an error, Alexis Henderson walked and Maldonado followed with a two-run single to left that scored both pinch runner Marlenae Hicks and Bratcher.

Already up 5-1, Centennial's Hawkins singled to load the bases, Schmelling forced home another run with a walk, and its final two runs scored when Charlotte Marcum grounded to short and turned it into an infield single on a disputed call at first.

The Eagles then pushed their edge to 9-1 in the fourth when Chelsea Arndt singled and pinch runner Hicks stole two bases, scoring when she forced a throwing error on the second steal.

But the Lions didn't quit. Instead, they got their bats going in the fourth, scored three times and edged within 9-4. Kacie Allen got things started with a one-out single and Amesquita stepped up next and hammered a Marcum pitch over the center field fence for a home run. Then, Campbell, Ava Peters and Taylor Maxwell came through with consecutive singles, with Maxwell's hit to center to bringing pinch runner Ava Sin home.

West Linn kept coming too, adding another three runs in the bottom of the sixth to close within 9-7. Campbell and Peters both singled, Sin and Peters moved up on an error and scored when Mueller singled hard off Schmelling's glove at second. Then, with two outs, Mueller moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Lexi Grein's double to right. But when Delaney Southards singled to center, Grein was cut down at home on a perfect throw to Cook by Bratcher.

Centennial added its final run in the seventh when Greene doubled home Hawkins, then held on as West Linn made its final push in the bottom of the frame. Amesquita started with a one-out single, Campbell walked and — after Marcum got the second out — Maxwell walked to load the bases before Mueller grounded to Schmelling to end the contest.

"I knew that we were going to get it done and we weren't going to let them win it," Maldonado said.

"Yes, I had a lot of nerves," Cook admitted. "We were calling pitches, but they were just hitting them, outside or inside."

For their part, the Lions vowed to keep working and improving and believing that they'll break through and win.

"This is my fourth year on this team and we have never been a team that started off great at the beginning," Mueller said. "But as the innings go on and the games go on, we start to find our stride and it's how it's always been."

"I think it's just always been like that," Amesquita added. "As the games have gone on, we start to come together more as a team and try to play together."

Next up, Centennial hosts Sherwood at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and plays at Liberty at 5 p.m. Friday, while West Linn hosts Glencoe at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday and plays at Jesuit at 5 p.m. Friday.

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