Crater's Renee Murphy slides safely across home plate in the fourth inning of Tuesday's Class 5A playoff game against Madras. - Andy Atkinson

Crater makes it rain hits in playoff win over Madras

CENTRAL POINT — There was a pause, like the calm before a devastating storm.

Mother Nature seemed to dab her tears as the sporadic rain above Crater High stopped, temporarily freeing the drab spring sky from its waterlogged detention.

The moment of eerie serenity was suddenly shaken by the sound of a crack.

The Comets' softball team was about to make it pour.

Third-ranked Crater used a nine-hit, eight-run fourth inning to take command in a 13-3 victory over Madras in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Tuesday.

The Comets (18-7) will travel to play Century (21-6) in the quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The Jaguars defeated Thurston, 8-6, to establish the matchup.

Sophomore pitcher Renee Murphy, who improved to 13-4, pitched a three-hitter with three strikeouts and just two walks for Crater, which had to dig itself out of an early hole. On the second pitch she faced, junior catcher JoElla Smith crushed a three-run home run to left-center field in the top of the first inning, giving the White Buffalos (15-13) the early lead.

Crater responded with its bats, pounding out 19 hits against a Madras defense that appeared porous and perplexed at times.

The three-time defending 5A state champions have now won 13 straight state playoff games dating back to 2007.

"We are definitely a team that revolves around our offense," Crater head coach Chris Arnold said. "We like to think we have a deep lineup and that top to bottom our lineup can produce runs. We try to create offensive situations. We really put a priority on teaching offensive skills."

School was in session on Tuesday.

Crater induced three straight outs after the homer and began the bottom of the first inning with three consecutive hits, including an RBI double by Dennae Grant. Kayla Hopkinson, who got on base with a double, scored a batter later on a clever double steal.

Murphy, who finished with four RBIs and a run, gave the Comets the permanent lead with a roaring hit that bounced off the left-field wall and drove in Hopkinson and Sarah Haga.

Then came the fourth.

The Comets, who cycled through the lineup during their hitting parade, opened the inning with four straight hits. Haga whacked a two-run single, Emily Medina had an RBI double and Grant, Taylor Mackey and Rachel Ray all hit run-scoring singles.

Murphy hammered a two-run triple in the fourth.

"They are a great hitting team and when you have a great hitting team, a lot of times, that third look at a pitcher they are gonna string some hits together," Madras head coach Shawna McConnell said.

Arnold said he admired Murphy's focus — and resiliency — in the circle.

"Renee Murphy as a sophomore is learning how to deal with adverse situations," Arnold said. "Physically, she has a ton of skills. The part she is really improving on and that we've seen a lot of growth in is the mental aspect of the game. I think giving up a three-run home run would crack a lot of lesser kids, as far as mentally, but she stayed with it, found herself and found her rhythm."

Mackey's RBI single in the fifth inning triggered the 10-run rule and sealed the winning deal for Crater.

"It takes all of us to get on base and then produce more hits and score some more," said Mackey, who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs. "This is a great start. It shows a lot on how we work together. This is just the beginning for us."

Freshman Jamie Moe, who was replaced with one out in the fourth inning, gave up 12 hits for Madras, which plays in the Intermountain Conference. Fellow ninth grader Natalie Martin relieved her. The two have filled in for ace Maycee Abendschein, who was injured earlier in the year.

"To come out here against a team who is extremely solid over the years and for them to start out that way and be relaxed and play hard and not be intimidated by that, it was a lot of fun," McConnell said. "It was good for them."

Grant, Hopkinson, Haga and Mackey all had three hits, with Haga recording three RBIs and two runs. Malorie Mitchell and Ray both added two hits.

"We had to deal with the rain and tarps, and we had to adjust at first," said Grant, who totalled four runs. "We got started a little slow. Then our energy in the dugout helped out a lot. Once we started hitting, (we) just couldn't stop. We created what we needed to to keep in it and then our bats came along and pushed us ahead."

Madras 300 00 — 3 3 1

Crater 202 81 — 13 19 1

Moe, Martin (4) and J. Smith; Murphy and Haga. W — Murphy (13-4). L — Moe (6-6). 2B — M: S. Brown, Moe; C: Hopkinson 2, Haga, Medina. 3B — C: Murphy. HR — M: J. Smith.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail

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