Jesuit shortstop Kacy Lyman prepares to catch a pop-up in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over McNary. (Photo by Carlos Regnier)
Jesuit shortstop Kacy Lyman prepares to catch a pop-up in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over McNary. (Photo by Carlos Regnier)

PORTLAND – Last softball season was a bitter pill for Jesuit's Kacy Lyman.

Eager to get back on the field after COVID canceled her sophomore season, the shortstop suffered a torn ACL in the team's sixth game and was relegated to being a spectator all the way through summer ball.

“It was really hard, especially for recruiting for me,” Lyman said. “But I really tried to use that time to work on my mental game.”

Now fully recovered, Lyman is ready to make her senior season count. And she is a big reason why fourth-ranked Jesuit is off to an 8-0 start.

Lyman provided the spark Wednesday as the Crusaders beat visiting McNary 2-1 in a 6A nonleague game. She doubled and scored for a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and after the Celtics drew even, she ripped a solo home run to center field to make it 2-1 in the fourth inning. She also showed off her defensive skills, snagging a hot grounder to start a double play in the fifth inning.

“I definitely wanted to come out and go strong this season,” said Lyman, who has committed to play in college at Georgetown.

Through eight games, Lyman is batting .583 with five doubles, two triples, four home runs and 12 RBIs. In Tuesday's 15-2 win at West Salem, she had a double, triple and home run.

“Kacy's on a hot streak,” Jesuit coach Jim Speciale said. “She's swinging the bat really, really well. And defensively, I think she's the best shortstop in the state. I've had some great shortstops here, and she's one of the best I've ever had.”

Jesuit got another stellar outing Wednesday from senior pitcher Ainsley Davis, a Metro League first-team pitcher last season. Davis threw a four-hitter with five strikeouts and one walk to subdue the Celtics (5-2), who entered averaging 11.8 runs per game.

Davis opened the season with five shutouts before giving up two runs to West Salem on Tuesday. In 45 innings, she has allowed 24 hits, struck out 88 and walked 16. She is 6-0 with a 0.31 ERA.

“I feel like this is definitely the strongest season that I've thrown,” Davis said. “I have a super attacking mindset as a pitcher, especially as my senior year.

“I haven't had a full season since my freshman year, so this is definitely the year that all four of us seniors wanted to come out and just be like, 'This is it, this is all we've got,' and just leave it all out on the field every single game.”

Speciale likes how Davis is hitting her spots.

“She's throwing strikes, she's making teams put the ball in play, and she's also striking people out,” Speciale said. “She's keeping us in every ballgame so we have a chance to win.”

Jesuit had six hits against McNary junior pitcher Lacey Vasas, getting two each from Lyman and senior first baseman Georgia Corey. The Columbia-bound Corey, the Metro player of the year last season, followed Lyman's first-inning double with an RBI single.

The Crusaders are averaging 8.5 runs per game. Freshman center fielder Berkleigh Tuck has been a catalyst in the leadoff spot, hitting .452 with four doubles, two triples and eight RBIs.

Speciale, who coached Jesuit to state titles in 2006 and 2016, is encouraged by what he has seen from his team so far.

“They're buying into the team thing,” Speciale said. “When we have kids struggling, other teams pick them up. I can't wait until we all start gelling. We'll be tough to beat.”

Jesuit has yet to play a team currently ranked in the top 10 of the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll. The Crusaders will play host to No. 6 Sheldon on April 4 and No. 2 Tigard on April 11.

“Those are going to be big games, for sure,” Davis said. “I think this game was huge in that it kind of prepared us, and kind of showed us what we're about to face in the next couple weeks.

“We're definitely a state championship-contending team this year, without a doubt. I think we have it in us, for sure.”

McNary scored its only run Wednesday on an RBI single by senior center fielder Kayelee Schwab in the second inning. The Celtics had the tying run on second base with one out in the top of the sixth, but Davis escaped.

“We hit a lot of balls out there, and they just didn't fall,” Celtics coach Kelly Parsell said. “It was tough, but I'm really proud of how they worked through tonight, and how they held Jesuit to two runs. They've got some powerful girls.”

McNary is playing its first season under Parsell, who moved over from assistant to replace Kevin Wise, the team's coach the previous eight seasons. Parsell (formerly Burdick) played on South Salem's 2014 state championship team and had a college career at Washington before assisting at South Salem and McNary.

“It was not part of the plan, which is funny, because I'm a planner,” Parsell said of high school coaching. “But it's hard to say no to a game that's been so much of my life. And it's really hard to say no when you have such a great group of girls who are willing to learn.”