Since Burns started its softball program in 2006, the Hilanders have struggled to hold their own.
It took them until 2016 to post their first winning record, and they have yet to win a state playoff game, falling in the first round in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, they finished 0-20.
But Burns started to turn the corner last year, going 11-2 and making the 3A culminating week tournament, and the Hilanders are going full throttle this season.
After opening the season with a 4-0 loss to 2A/1A powerhouse Grant Union, Burns reeled off 24 consecutive wins and blitzed to the title in 3A Special District 2. And the Hilanders (24-1, 12-0) have done it with one senior on the roster.
“We thought they'd be a good group,” said first-year coach Robert Medley, the school's principal. “Watching them play last year, they had great potential. There's a lot of buy-in with this group.”
The Hilanders – who have risen to No. 3 in the OSAAtoday 3A coaches poll, behind No. 1 South Umpqua and No. 2 Yamhill-Carlton – will carry plenty of momentum and confidence into the state playoffs.
“If our girls continue to play up to their potential, I feel like we can make some noise,” Medley said. “We're excited about the opportunity these girls have created about the playoffs. I think we can make a deep run and go after a championship.”
Burns has posted several close wins against quality competition. The Hilanders defeated 2A No. 3 Union/Cove 5-2, 4A No. 6 Ontario 3-2 and 2A No. 7 Lakeview 1-0 in nine innings. They also swept a doubleheader from district runner-up Enterprise, winning 4-1 and 4-2 against the Outlaws, who have been ranked in the 3A coaches poll.
They completed a perfect run through their district Tuesday with a hard-earned 2-0 win at Nyssa.
“We've had some close games in our league that the girls have stepped up and played well in,” Medley said. “Getting it done on the road, that was huge for our last league game.”
Sophomore pitcher Ayla Davis, in her second season as the team's ace, is 16-1 with a 0.84 ERA and has struck out 247 in 108 innings. In the extra-inning win against Lakeview, she pitched a two-hitter with 16 strikeouts and no walks.
“She has a great mentality on the mound,” Medley said. “She really goes out and competes. Things don't get to her, which is odd for a sophomore, someone that young. She puts it behind her really quickly.”
Sophomore Leauna Dupuy has been a solid as the No. 2 pitcher, going 8-0.
“She'd be a No. 1 or a starter on a lot of teams we played this year,” Medley said.
Junior first baseman and outfielder Macy Temple, a left-handed leadoff hitter, has a .650 on-base percentage, 28 stolen bases and has scored 36 runs. She is a terror on the basepaths.
“If people aren't paying attention, she scores runs when she shouldn't,” Medley said.
Junior third baseman Lacie Tiller is batting .400 and has scored 31 runs. Junior catcher Merissa Medley, the coach's daughter, is hitting .532 with nine doubles, two triples, five home runs and 38 RBIs. Freshman right fielder Gracie Mello has been on a tear of late, hitting .560 with 16 RBIs on the last 11 games.
Robert Medley credited the previous coach, Newton SkunkCap, with laying the foundation for the team's success. He said that assistant coaches Lindsay Davis and Ty Temple also have been integral.
“They're a huge part of our success,” said Medley, who won 265 games and two state titles in 18 seasons as the baseball coach at Scappoose (2000-17).
Medley said the Hilanders are an “incredibly hard-working group.”
“Every one of them has contributed to the success of the program," he said. “It's a group that's played a lot of youth softball. They want to learn, they soak it up, and they get better every day. It's been fun to watch.”
Burns finishes its regular season Wednesday with a nonleague home game against Ontario.