Hitless in Hood River.
That’s how the Hood River Valley softball team has been feeling the past two games on its home field.
After being unable to come up with the big hit Monday versus Centennial during a 2-1 loss, the Eagles were faced with a similar
conundrum on Wednesday, losing their third straight home game, 3-2, to The Dalles.
“As with many young teams, we seem to bunch together mistakes and can’t seem to get the big hit when we need it,” coach Phil Hukari said of his team, which gave up three unearned runs in the first inning and couldn’t recover offensively.
“We must develop a competitive drive, with the attitude that every player wants to be in the position to make the big play or get the deciding hit,” he said.
The Eagles (5-4) were in that position on numerous occasions Wednesday, but couldn’t break down Indians pitchers Christy Bayley and Sarah Parker when they were on the ropes.
Bayley baffled the Eagle hitters for the first two innings, striking out five of the first six. HRV finally got to her in the third, however, loading the bases with no outs on consecutive infield singles by Ashley Carter and Maria Martinez (Becki Flory reached on an error).
After first baseman Stefanie Draper struck out, shortstop Ashley Delepine earned a bases-loaded walk to score Carter and leave the bases juiced with one out.
But starting pitcher Talia Hinman grounded into a fielder’s choice and centerfielder Michelle Connors struck out to end the inning, leaving the score at 3-1.
HRV frustrated Bayley again in the fourth, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Carter sacrificed the runners over before Martinez reached on an error, giving the Eagles a golden opportunity.
Flory earned a bases-loaded walk to score catcher Katie Pritchett, but two more quick outs by Draper and Delepine left the score at 3-2 after four innings of play.
The Eagles didn’t panic, but after going down 1-2-3 in the fifth and sixth, they were down to their final three hitters just like that.
“We had opportunities in both the third and fourth innings, but we just couldn’t seem to get the big hit to break the game open,” assistant coach Wayne Smith said.
The Eagles made the seventh inning exciting, but again failed to get the key hit when they needed it most.
Flory started off the inning with a pop out to second base, and was followed by Draper, who recorded one of just three Eagle hits on the afternoon.
Delepine sacrificed Draper to second, but a wild throw allowed her to reach safely. Then, with Hinman at the plate, a passed ball let both Draper and Delepine advance, giving HRV runners on second and third with one out.
Hinman hit a soft liner down the right field line that looked like it was going to win the game. But the ball sailed foul and she eventually struck out swinging.
Connors came up with another chance to win it, but when she poked the ball foul down the left-field line, the Indians’ outfielder made a sliding catch to end the game.
“I’ve got to get my head back in it,” said Connors, the Eagles’ clean-up hitter. “I’ve been going through a bit of a slump and I’m ready for it to be over.”
However, despite all the Eagles’ offensive struggles Wednesday, Hinman put together another early-season masterpiece in the circle.
The sophomore fireballer fanned eight batters on the afternoon and gave up just one walk, but sloppy defense in the first inning ended up being the difference.
Next up for the Eagles is a Monday road trip to Forest Grove for a rematch of last year’s first-round state playoff game — a game the Vikings won 4-0. HRV’s first league games are April 12 at Summit.