When a team is looking toward the playoffs, one letdown at home could mean the difference between a No. 2 or No. 3 seed — which is also the difference between playing at home and on the road at state.
The Hood River Valley softball team took that notion to heart Tuesday, scrapping together a wild 2-1 extra-inning win over league rival Hermiston at Westside Field.
“Every win we can get against a top team further solidifies our position among the top two in the league, which is where we want to be,” Eagles coach Phil Hukari said.
“There were a lot of positives that came out of Tuesday’s win, and it’s a big boost for us since Hermiston is traditionally one of the powerhouses in our league,” he said.
Sophomore pitcher Talia Hinman was on fire against the Bulldogs, striking out eight, walking none and giving up seven hits while going the distance to earn her fifth win.
Junior Michelle Connors was the offensive hero, bringing home Ashley Carter from third base on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“Tuesday’s game was a classic pitching duel,” Hukari said. “Whichever team got the breaks was going to win.”
As it turned out, Hermiston’s three errors hurt them tremendously, while HRV’s error-free game helped them come out on top.
The Eagles (8-5, 3-0 IMC) held the lead for most of the game after scoring a run in the second inning on Meghan Flem’s RBI single. The Bulldogs were unable to get to Hinman until the sixth, when they tagged her for three hits to tie the game at 1-1.
The teams played a scoreless seventh before Carter led off the eighth with a single. Carter advanced to second on Ashley Delepine’s sacrifice bunt, and took third on a throwing error. Then, with one out, Connors stepped in and delivered the sac fly to center.
HRV also faced off against Forest Grove on Thursday, but lost the 2002 playoff rematch by a score of 5-1.
Senior Lauren Gaulke went the distance in the circle, but the offense sputtered and couldn’t come up with the big hit to back her up. Hinman did, however, record three of the Eagles’ seven basehits.
“I thought Lauren did a great job,” Hukari said. “We just weren’t as focused as we were on Tuesday. We’re going to have to stay aggressive and not lose sight of what we’re trying to do, which is to keep improving every game.”
Gaulke gave up just five hits and three earned runs on the day. But just like last year’s state playoff game, the Vikings did their damage early, scoring three runs in the first inning.
Next up for HRV is a Monday road trip to R.A. Long High School in Longview, Wash. They then host Oregon City on Thursday.