Tigard softball’s underdog run ends in state semifinals

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Senior Hailey White tries to bring back a home run in Tigard’s 10-0 loss in the state semifinals to Sheldon. Adam Littman/Tigard Life
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The Tigard softball team won three straight road games in the playoffs to reach the state semifinals as the No. 19 seed. 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the semifinals meant a trip to Sheldon High School, the defending state champs. Tigard’s season ended there with a 10-0 loss on May 28. 

Even with the loss, the Tigers were in good spirits looking back at the season overall, especially the deep playoff run. 

“This team’s journey has been unbelievable all season,” Tigard Head Coach Pete Pete Kostel said. “It’s a special playoff run for this group.”

The playoffs opened with a 4-2 win against Roseburg. In the second round, Tigard faced No. 3 Oregon City, which had beaten the Tigers in all three of their meetings this year. With loss number four to their Three River League rival looking, Tigard used a last-inning rally to keep its season alive. 

The Tigers trailed 2-1 in the seventh, having been shut down offensively after senior Ella Dardis’ leadoff homerun to open the game. Senior Ava Hernandez opened the seventh with a pinch hit single, but the next two batters were retired. 

Down to their last out, Dardis ripped a double to right center to bring Hernandez home from first the tie the game. Sophomore Kiarra Belli followed that up with a single through the left side to bring ahead the eventual game-winner. Claire Masters drove in an insurance run to give Tigard three runs in the seventh and another 4-2 win in the playoffs. 

Kostel said the team showed that kind of fight throughout the season.

“We made plays when we had the opportunity and were just in it at the end of games,” he said. “Against Oregon City, we were in it at the end and believed they could do great things. And they did.”

Tigard then went to Southridge in the quarterfinals, and won that game 9-5 to reach the state semifinals. 

Oddly enough, Tigard wasn’t even the highest seed in the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, No. 21 Glencoe was on a similar Cinderella run. Glencoe won its semifinal game against top-seeded Westview to make the state title game against Sheldon, which took place after our press deadline. 

Prior to this year, the last time a team with such a seed reached the state semifinals was in 2014, when a then-No. 30 seeded South Medford reached the final four, losing to eventual state champion South Salem. Thirty-two teams make the playoffs. 

Kostel said a major catalyst for the playoff run was the team’s five seniors: Dardis, Hernandez, Macy Witt, Natalie Church, and Hailey White, most of whom were on the team when Tigard won the state title in 2022. 

White said her biggest supporter on that team was senior Kani Korok, and she tries to bring a similar kind of support to her younger teammates. 

“When I get on and see someone younger than me that’s up to bat, I want to encourage them and give them the confidence that they can do what they can do,” White said. 

Dardis agreed, saying that as the seniors on the team, they tried to push the younger players to be their best while also remaining supportive. 

That’s also why they felt like they could make a long run in the playoffs even as a higher seed. 

“I think we knew we could play like this the whole time,” Dardis said. “It was about bringing that out and having the confidence and trust in each other to get the job done.”

Witt said that seeing success throughout the season also gave the team something to strive for even if they hit a rough patch.

“Once we realized the level we could play at, we kept reaching for that,” she said.

Kostel said the leadership and success of the seniors — and the team as a whole — is something the younger players see and know is possible when they’re leading the program. 

“They believe in how we do things. I couldn’t be more proud of all five of them,” he said. “The seniors have done a great job of setting the example of what we expect for Tigard softball.”

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