Mudballs took the place of fireballs Wednesday at Westside Field as the Hood River Valley softball team lost its home opener, 2-0, to Evergreen High School of Vancouver, Wash.
The Eagles (1-1) mustered just three hits off the Vikings’ standout pitcher Sarah Arnold, and had trouble getting the big hit when they had runners on base.
Meanwhile, HRV pitchers Lauren Gaulke and Talia Hinman combined to give up just three hits on the afternoon. But steadily declining weather and a sloppy fifth inning spelled defeat for the Eagles.
“The conditions shouldn’t bother us, but they bothered us considerably on Wednesday,” coach Phil Hukari said. “That, and we were overpowered by a pretty dominant pitcher. She just seemed to get stronger as the game went on.”
Gaulke started the game and allowed no runs in her four innings of work. She had trouble finding the plate in the first two frames, but settled down in the third and fourth before giving way to Hinman.
The sophomore standout, who earned the victory in Tuesday’s 3-2 win at Reynolds, was unable to find her rhythm in her first inning of work and loaded the bases with no outs.
The Vikings pounced on the opportunity and promptly picked up two runs in the fifth before the Eagles knew what hit them.
“Talia just couldn’t grip the ball in the rain,” Hukari said. “All the mistakes seemed to happen once the weather got bad.”
Tuesday’s game at Reynolds was a much different story, however. Hinman was masterful, giving up just four hits to go with eight strikeouts and one base on balls.
The Eagles were a different team offensively as well, pounding out six hits on the afternoon. Freshman first baseman Stefanie Draper had two hits, including an RBI, while junior third baseman Ashley Carter had the other RBI.
But despite some early success at the plate, Hukari said his team still needs to improve some things in the preseason.
“We didn’t hit the ball as well as we should have off a weak, inexperienced pitcher,” he said. “It’s not exactly what we wanted, but for being on the road early in the season, it was a good win for us.”
The game was knotted at two heading into the sixth inning, when the Eagles scrapped together the winning run.
Sophomore Katie Flory led off with a base on balls and was eventually put out at second on a fielder’s choice by Draper. Carter sacrificed Draper to second, and with two outs, junior center fielder Michelle Connors slapped a screaming ground ball that the infield couldn’t handle.
The Raiders’ shortstop made an errant throw to first base, and Draper came around from second to score the go-ahead run.
“Of course it’s nice to start the season with a win,” Hukari said. “You need to be able to win those kind of games if you’re going to compete for a league title. But we need to get our bats going over Spring Break.”
HRV hoped to have one final tune-up before leaving for Orlando, Fla., but a rain-soaked field forced Hukari to cancel a scheduled home game with Oregon City on Thursday. The game may be rescheduled for later in the year, but no dates have been set.
The Eagles will play five games between today and Tuesday, and will be facing some of the best teams on the Eastern seaboard, including three from New Jersey.
“Those teams from New Jersey will be tough, no doubt,” Hukari said. “Even though we are going to Florida to have fun, we’re going to have to work hard, too.”
Hukari and assistant coach Wayne Smith plan a Spring Break trip every two years. They took the team to Orlando in 1999, and have also traveled to California.
Talks of a potential cancellation surfaced after the war began earlier this week, but Hukari and Smith are confident that the trip will go smoothly and as planned.
“If we felt there was a danger present, we wouldn’t go,” Hukari said. “We aren’t going to let fear dictate our lives. We’ve been living this way for the past two years now, and we’re going to assume that the security is now tighter than ever.”
HRV returns next Friday and takes to the home diamond again on March 31 versus Centennial.