Softball cruises to third straight win

SANDY — After finding itself on the losing end of some close ballgames the past couple weeks, the HRV softball team has finally figured out how to get over the hump, winning its third straight barnburner Monday over Sandy.

Solid hitting and improved defense helped solidify the Eagles’ spot among the league’s top four teams, as they escaped with a narrow 1-0 win and upped their record to a sparkling 8-4.

“Another one of those intense games we are getting so accustomed to,” coach Phil Hukari said. “We hit the ball well, but found few gaps. But lucky for us, neither did Sandy.”

Junior Lauren Gaulke pitched five strong innings, giving up just four hits and no walks with five strikeouts to earn the victory. Freshman Talia Hinman pitched the final two innings to record the save.

Right fielder Lesley Betts scored the game’s only run in the fifth inning. After reaching on an infield hit, Betts stole second, and then attempted a steal of third. But the catcher’s throw carried into left field, allowing Betts to cross home plate.

Betts went 2-3 on the day, along with Michelle Connors, to lead the Eagle attack. Whitney Zuercher and Ashley Carter also recorded hits on the afternoon.

Hukari also pointed to superb defensive efforts by the shortstop Carter and third baseman Angie Martin as being keys to the victory.

Friday’s game at Centennial wasn’t as pretty, but as they say in the biz, “a win is a win is a win.”

However, the 5-3 grudge match wasn’t just an ordinary league victory. HRV needed to beat Centennial to grab full control of the conference’s fourth and final playoff spot. With the loss, Centennial sits a full three games behind HRV with four games to play.

But by no means was it easy.

After coming from behind to take the lead in the fifth, HRV committed three errors in the top of the seventh inning to keep the game interesting.

However, first baseman Maria Martinez completed a dazzling, unassisted game-ending double play to preserve the win.

Hinman went the distance on the mound, giving up just three hits and zero earned runs. She also contributed to her own cause, driving in a run in the fifth.

Martin also added an RBI in the fifth, and Carter drove in a big insurance run in the seventh to complete a 3-for-4 afternoon.

HRV takes on first-place Central Catholic Friday in Portland.

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