Sheldon's Payton Burnham struck out 57 and allowed five hits in 29 innings in five playoff games. (Photo by Norm Maves Jr.)
Sheldon's Payton Burnham struck out 57 and allowed five hits in 29 innings in five playoff games. (Photo by Norm Maves Jr.)

EUGENE – Sheldon's softball team was in no mood for a Cinderella story Saturday at the University of Oregon.

No. 21 seed Glencoe's fairy-tale playoff run drew to a screeching halt at the hands of the reigning state champion Irish, who subdued the Crimson Tide 5-0 behind star senior pitcher Payton Burnham.

The Arkansas-bound Burnham was her usual dominant self, throwing a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters as Sheldon won its second title in a row and third since 2019. The second-seeded Irish (29-3) finish the season with a 40-game winning streak against Oregon teams.

“Going into it, we were like, 'They're here for a reason, so we've got to bring our A game and see what happens,'” Burnham said of the Crimson Tide (19-12), who won four consecutive road playoff games to reach the final, including a semifinal win over No. 1 Westview.

Sheldon controlled the game from the start, pushing across two runs in the bottom of the first inning, and leaned on the steady hand of Burnham. In 29 playoff innings, Burnham surrendered five hits and struck out 57.

“She's just a phenomenal athlete,” Sheldon coach Avery Morehead Hutsell said of Burnham, who also had 16 home runs and 57 RBIs this season. “What I'm most proud of Payton this year is just growing as a person and teammate. Now you'll see her dancing on the mound, having the time of her life.”

Senior Ashlyn Martin went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs, senior Kinley Pappas went 2 for 3 with a triple and an RBI and Burnham had a single and an RBI for the Irish, who finished with seven hits off Glencoe senior Bailey Farrimond.

Sheldon, which defeated Oregon City 1-0 in last year's state championship game despite not getting a hit, cruised to the title by outscoring its five playoff opponents 38-1.

“There was a little bit of pressure, for sure, because we won state last year,” Burnham said. “But I don't think we let that consume us at all. We just kind of played our game, worked hard, and this happens.”

Sheldon got the upper hand Saturday by striking early against Farrimond.

In the bottom of the first, senior Brooke Peterson reached on an infield error and scored when Pappas ripped a triple into the gap in right-center. Burnham followed with an RBI groundout to make it 2-0.

“It was exciting, first inning, came out hot,” Pappas said. “I think that was really important for how the rest of the game went.”

The Irish increased the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Martin doubled and scored on an infield error. Sheldon made it 5-0 in the fifth when Pappas and Burnham singled and scored on a two-out single to center field by Martin.

Burnham did the rest, shutting out a Glencoe team that had outscored three top-five seeds by a combined 24-2 in the playoffs. She finished the season with 318 strikeouts in 149 innings.

The Crimson Tide left impressed with her.

“She really has good spin,” Glencoe sophomore Makena Petrick said. “Kudos to her. She got me on the riseball a couple of times. She's a great pitcher.”

The no-hitter was an afterthought for Burnham.

“Actually, I didn't know until after the game,” she said. “I was thinking about it during the last at-bat, and I was like, 'Oh, no way.' My team did great behind me. I couldn't have done it without them.”

Burnham's competitive drive and commitment to the game inspires her teammates. Pappas, the team's catcher, said Burnham makes her want to get better.

“Just the way she's in touch with her body, and can feel and make adjustments,” said Pappas, who has committed to Utah Tech. “She can make adjustments in the game on the fly. I just love that girl. We just want to work hard together. We're working for the same purpose. I love catching her.”

The Irish repeated under a different coach in Morehead Hutsell, an assistant who was promoted to replace Mike Faulconer. She credited Faulconer with building “an amazing program” and was humbled to carry the torch forward.

“Just knowing what amazing athletes I have, I was like, 'Man, I really hope I can do what I need to do for them,'” Morehead Hutsell said. “They just made everything worth it. They put a lot into this entire year since October. I'm just really proud of them for persevering and pushing through.”

Pappas said playing for Morehead Hutsell “was the best possible thing for us. Our energy is up. We want to work hard, and I think that comes from the energy she brings, and the work ethic she pushes on us.”

Sheldon's only setbacks this season came on a spring break road trip to California, where the Irish lost three of four games. They returned to win their last 24 games.

“I definitely think that lit a fire under us because we were not very happy when we went down there,” Burnham said. “When we came back, you could just tell the level of play we were playing at, the difference in how we were playing. We upped it a lot.”

Glencoe was going for its first state championship since winning the 5A title in 2010. The Crimson Tide also lost the 6A final in 2013 and 2016.

“We're a young team, and I feel like the nerves definitely got us a little bit,” Petrick said. “As soon as the first couple innings ended, we definitely got a lot better.”