One-and-done has become a familiar fate for Canby's softball team.
In each of the last eight 6A postseasons, the Cougars have exited in the first round. Since winning the state title in 2001, they have lost in the first round 13 times.
The Cougars are looking to change that this season, and judging by recent results, they seem to be on course. They extended their winning streak to seven last week by beating No. 4 Newberg 5-1, Westview 10-3 and No. 7 Tualatin 3-1.
“We're playing solid,” third-year coach Ty Kraft said. “We feel like if we put four or five runs on the board, we're going to win most games. Teams have to pretty much hit to beat us.”
Canby (10-2), ranked No. 9 in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll, has a nucleus of juniors that led the Canby Rebels to three consecutive ASA state titles from 2016 to 2018. Kraft -- a 1990 Canby graduate whose daughter, McKenna, is a junior -- coached those Rebels teams.
“We kind of knew with this class that when we got to their junior and senior years, we had something special,” Kraft said. “Goals are much higher. This team has set a goal for themselves to win a league championship and make it to the final eight, and try to go bigger than that.”
The Cougars didn't get a chance to play in 2020 and they struggled with consistency last year, finishing 8-9. But everything appears to be falling into place this season.
“It was kind of a matter of time,” Kraft said. “Where they're at today is a really good place. They're just playing at a high level. There's not a lot of holes in that defense. Teams have to put together two or three hits in a row to score against us.”
Junior outfielder Ava Carroll is having an outstanding season at the plate. The leadoff hitter is batting .651 with two doubles, seven triples, two home runs and 11 RBIs and has scored 21 runs.
“She's just lights-out,” Kraft said. “I think she's one of the better players in the state.”
The Cougars also are getting plenty of offense from juniors McKenna Kraft (.405, 10 RBIs), Abigail Loomis (.333, 11 RBIs), Natalie Just (.325, one home run, 11 RBIs) and Ella Kiehl (.316, nine RBIs).
In Friday's Three Rivers League opener against visiting Tualatin, Canby trailed 1-0 before scoring three runs in the fifth inning on an RBI triple by Carroll and a two-run single by Kraft.
Carroll had two hits and two RBIs in the win over Newberg. The Cougars pounded out 13 hits to beat Westview as Kiehl went 3 for 4 with five RBIs.
Loomis has started all 12 games in the circle. In 76 innings, she has allowed 52 hits, struck out 114 and walked 15 and has an ERA of 2.03. In three wins last week, she gave up only 10 hits and struck out 35.
Loomis isn't overpowering, but keeps batters off balance by changing speeds and hitting her spots.
“She's been fantastic in managing the games,” Ty Kraft said. “She's pitching at a very high level.”
Canby lost to No. 1 Bend 6-2 and No. 6 McMinnville 13-10. Loomis gave up four home runs against Bend and six home runs against McMinnville on a day when the wind was blowing out.
“She just left some pitches high,” Ty Kraft said.
Kraft was encouraged, though, by how his team battled against unbeaten Bend (13-0) and sophomore pitcher Addisen Fisher, a national-caliber recruit whose fastballs have been clocked in the low 70s mph.
“We made Addisen pitch to us,” Kraft said. “She's used to blowing it by people, but we were putting the ball in play, and she actually had to start locating and started walking people. We really competed. The score didn't indicate how competitive that game was.”
Canby is going after a Three Rivers title in its final season in 6A before moving to the 5A Northwest Oregon Conference next year. The Cougars will have their hands full in a power-packed Three Rivers that includes No. 2 Tigard and its Florida State-bound senior pitcher, Makenna Reid.
“It's by far the toughest league,” Kraft said. “The 2022 pitchers in the state are really strong this year, and our league is loaded with them. You're not going to go through our league unbeaten. That's not going to happen.”