For the Astoria softball team, the preseason is all about finding some tough competition – after all, the Lady Fish will see plenty of it once Cowapa League play begins.

And the Fishermen found themselves a real challenge Monday afternoon in their home opener at Tapiola Park, as the Rainier Columbians came calling with their 7-1 overall record and No. 2 state ranking at the 3A level.

With hard-throwing pitcher Kylee Crape in a groove, the Columbians improved to 8-1, with a 6-0 win over Astoria.

It was, however, a “deceptive” 6-0 win.

The Columbians were clinging to a 1-0 lead through six innings, before tacking on five runs in the top of the seventh, highlighted by a grand slam from freshman Sarah Probasco.

Astoria coach Lou Marconeri couldn’t feel too badly about the loss.

“It was a great game,” he said. “They’re No. 1 or 2 in 3A, and their pitching is really good. We battled very hard.

“I don’t like losing, but I was proud of our kids,” he added. “We made a couple mistakes that hurt us, but other than that, we played a good game.”

Crape was just on top of her game, and Astoria’s too.

The senior pitcher allowed just one hit (a sixth inning single by Bailey Haskell), and struck out 12 batters with one walk.

“We could have hit the ball a little better,” Marconeri said. “We didn’t get all of our bunts down like we need to. We’re learning, and we’re getting better.”

The game was scoreless through four innings, before Rainier’s Marissa Sanchez reached base on an error to lead off the fifth.

Kaylea Knox singled to left field, and two outs later, Jessica Gibson drove a base hit to center to score Sanchez with the game’s first run.

Astoria’s best threat came in the bottom of the fifth, when Noelle Lund reached on an error, then made it safely to second on a grounder by Libby Di Bartolomeo, when the throw to second was late.

With runners at first and second and no outs, Crape buckled down and struck out the next three batters to end the inning.

The Columbians – who had scored 72 runs in their first eight games – managed to push across another run in the top of the seventh, when Knox sprinted home on an infield single by Gibson.

Crape drew a two-out walk to load the bases, and Probasco cleared ‘em all with a grand slam home run to center field.

Astoria went quietly in the bottom of the seventh, as the Fishermen lost for the first time since March 23.

Lund pitched a solid game for Astoria, allowing nine hits with six strikeouts and three walks.

“Noelle pitched very well,” Marconeri said. “They all played well. Libby made a heck of a play at second, Taylor (Mickle) made a couple good plays, Bryn (Watters) made some plays at third … overall, it was a good game, and I was proud of them.”

The Fishermen return to action today for a nonleague game at Clatskanie.

Rainier 6, Astoria 0

Rainier 000 010 5—6 9 1

Astoria 000 000 0—0 1 2

WP: Kylee Crape (12 K’s, 1 walk); LP: Noelle Lund (6 K’s, 3 walks). RBI: Rai, Probasco 4, Gibson 2. 2B: Rai, Clark. HR: Rai, Probasco. LOB: Rainier 7, Astoria 5. HBP: Ast, Wullger.

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