One week before Intermountain Conference play began, the Hood River Valley softball team was staring at a bit of a slump.
The Eagles had just lost back-to-back home games to Centennial and The Dalles, and had managed only one win on Oregon soil heading into an April 12 doubleheader with Summit.
Which was the day the real season began for the Eagles.
HRV welcomed back the bats that had been dormant since a 4-1 Spring Break road trip, and mowed down the Storm’s pitching staff with wins of 15-0 and 13-0.
They followed that up with a 2-1 extra-inning win over Hermiston on April 15 and a double-header sweep of Mountain View on April 26 to run their IMC record to 5-0.
The Eagles went on to win seven of their final nine league games, and capped a brilliant IMC campaign with a 12-2 record.
“What I liked most about our team this season was that we were so resilient,” coach Phil Hukari said. “The injuries were tough, and we went through a couple hitting slumps. But we just kept battling and had a very strong finish.”
A dramatic 1-0 win over undefeated Pendleton on the last day of the regular season sent HRV soaring toward the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. But the fun didn’t stop there.
The Eagles went on to beat Aloha in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, rallying from one run down to win the game, 3-2.
And, although the Eagles lost 9-0 to North Medford in the round of 16, they accomplished something that no HRV team had since 1998: They won in the playoffs.
“There are a few areas that we need to improve upon to become a top 10 team in the state,” Hukari said. “But I was proud of how we ended up. Our offense really came around late in the year, and we made a lot more things happen than in 2002.”
Hukari complimented every member of his team for an outstanding effort this year, and he
believes the Eagles will benefit from the experience next year.
“With another year of ASA ball and a lot of hard work in the offseason, we should have all the pieces next year,” he said.
“We’re only losing three seniors, and the younger girls who will fill those spots are hungry. Tryouts are going to be very competitive next year, which will only make us a better team,” he said.
HRV will feature a lineup that is chock full of experience, as well as the pitching of co-IMC Player of the Year, Talia Hinman.
The sophomore standout posted a record of 12-4 (8-1 IMC) and a 0.77 ERA this season. She also finished second on the team with a .410 batting average.
Freshman Stefanie Draper, who led the team with a .414 average before having wrist surgery in April, also figures to be a key member of the team in 2004.
Another freshman, Meghan Flem, was the leading run producer with 17 RBI and also posted a .337 average. Junior Ashley Carter scored the most runs with 16 and batted .325, while junior Michelle Connors batted .253 with 10 RBI and 13 runs scored.
Carter, Connors and Maria Martinez will be the senior leaders for a young team that will also welcome back starters Ashley Delepine and Katie Pritchett.