A year ago, the Lebanon Warriors upset Hillsboro in the first round of the 5A state playoffs to spark a run which took them all the way to the state semifinals.
The 14th-seeded Warriors drew the third-seeded Spartans again in the first round of this year's playoffs and once again played a strong game. But this time, the effort was not enough as the Spartans came away with a 1-0 victory.
Natalie Kinney had an RBI single in the fourth for the Spartans. It was the only run Lebanon pitcher Hailey Johnson surrendered. She went six innings, scattering seven hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
Hillsboro’s McKenzie Staub, however, tossed a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts to earn the win in the circle.
Lebanon coach Mardy Benedict was disappointed with the loss but immensely proud of his team's effort.
"I was just telling them, that's a great, great softball game. For us to compete like that, Hailey did an amazing job," Benedict said. "We defended like we wanted to defend. Hailey kept them off-balance, got them to pop up, put it on the ground. I'm just proud of them, proud of these girls."
Rylie Milligan had the Warriors’ lone hit and also walked.
Johnson stranded 10 Spartan baserunners, making good pitches in key moments with runners in scoring position.
"Honestly, when there's bases loaded I zone in a little more," Johnson said. "I just have to trust my girls and they showed me that today. I can trust them, especially Eddie out there, Taylor Edwards."
Edwards made several key catches in left field to keep the Spartans from scoring. In the third inning, Edwards caught a hard-hit line drive at the top of her reach to make the first out of the inning.
Edwards said she misread the ball off the bat and made a couple of steps in before stopping and going back. Had she taken one more false step, the ball would have been over her head, but she recovered to make the catch.
Edwards then saved a run with her catch to end the third inning. With two outs and the runner going on contact, Edwards had to cover a lot of ground on a low drive into the gap. If the ball had gotten by Edwards, the runner would have scored easily.
"I was going all out for it whether I had to dive for it or whether I could get there, I was going to do my best to catch the ball," Edwards said.
The junior outfielder later made a long run to catch a ball in foul territory right up against the fence. Edwards also made a couple of other more routine catches on fly balls.
"That's probably the most balls I've gotten hit to me all season," Edwards said.
The high level of play helped the Warrior players and coaches accept the reality of their season being at an end.
"We're 14, we're not supposed to be in this game at all and we come up and compete with them and give ourselves a chance right down to the end. That's all we can ask of these girls," Benedict said.
Hillsboro has advanced to the 5A after defeating Crater, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. The Spartans will face Dallas from the Mid-Willamette Conference.
The Mid-Willamette Conference is also represented in the other semifinal as West Albany will face Ridgeview.
Lebanon ends the season 15-11.