Comets ride Murphy, Ray to victory

CENTRAL POINT — The Crater Comets flew blind into their first-round playoff game against David Douglas, a team Crater coach Chris Arnold admitted he knew very little about.

The Comets will not have the same problem in the second round.

Renee Murphy pitched a five-hit shutout and Rachel Ray was clutch at the plate as Crater slipped past David Douglas 3-0 in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament Monday at Crater High School.

Murphy struck out six, walked three and did not allow a Scots' base runner past second base to help the Comets (17-9) pocket their fifth win in their last six games and earn a second-round date with Southern Oregon Hybrid rival Roseburg.

The Indians (15-10) beat West Linn 6-2 in another first-round tilt Monday, and buried Crater 11-2 in the last head-to-head matchup. The Comets lead the season series 3-1, but that won't matter if the Indians break through again on Wednesday in Central Point.

"We made some mistakes and they hit the ball really well," Arnold said of his team's most recent game against Roseburg. "We match up very well. It should be good."

Crater-David Douglas didn't look like a mismatch either.

Ray delivered the most important hit of the game to cap a two-out rally by Crater in the second, though it didn't come without controversy. With runners on second and third, Ray sliced a hard grounder to David Douglas shortstop Paige Martin's left, and Martin collided with Crater's Kassi Murphy.

"It was right on the sweet spot," Ray said of her two-run hit.

The ball skittered through and was fielded by center fielder Shatanya Fernandez, whose throw home was a hair too late to keep Murphy from making it 2-0.

David Douglas coach Staci Heath argued to the umpires that Murphy should have been out for interference, but after a brief huddle the call stood.

"It's a judgement call," said Heath, whose team finished 15-11. "(The umpires) didn't feel it was a playable call for our shortstop, but it was a high hopper "… so I felt our shortstop could have caught it off the high hop and touched second base and we would have been out of the inning."

Ray's hit was one of the few on the day with runners in scoring position, as both teams struggled to drive home runners. Crater was 3-for-11 with runners at second or third — and hit into a rare 5-3-5 double play that ruined the Comets' third inning.

None of that mattered with Murphy on the mound, however, especially after Malorie Mitchell unleashed a laser up the middle in the fifth to drive in Dennae Grant and give the Comets a 3-0 cushion.

Murphy mixed up her pitches well to avoid any serious trouble, though the Scots did have opportunities. Their best chance to jump on Crater came in the opening minutes of the game, as leadoff hitter Ciara Fernandez singled through the infield and was sacrificed to second. Murphy doused the threat by inducing a fly out by Shatanya Fernandez and striking out cleanup hitter Jamie Martin.

It was a sign of things to come. David Douglas finished 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, including two routine ground outs and a liner to short with two on in the sixth.

"I always throw low, I try to hit my spots and I did really good today at that," Murphy said.

Heath agreed.

"I thought (Murphy) did a good job forcing us to hit ground balls," Heath said. "We got a few through the infield but just didn't get those gap shots."

Crater's second inning began innocently, with back-to-back ground outs followed by back-to-back singles by Caitlin Medina and Murphy. Grant slapped a 1-2 pitch past first baseman Tess Kuehl to keep the inning alive and set the table for Ray, who led everyone by going 3-for-4 at the plate.

The Comets were held in check after that by David Douglas pitcher Jamie Martin, who struck out three with a walk while scattering 11 hits.

Along with Ray, Grant (2-for-4) and Medina (2-for-3) also had multiple hits for the Comets.

Now for Crater, it's on to the round of 32 and a fourth meeting with the Indians.

"They're a good challenge," Ray said. "We just gotta remember how we played them all throughout conference and hopefully we can remember every hitter and every pitch because they have a really good team."

David Douglas 000 000 0 — 0 5 0

Crater 020 010 x — 3 11 0

J. Martin and C. Fernandez; Murphy and Haga. W — Murphy (16-7). L — J. Martin. 2B — C: Murphy.

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