PENDLETON — In the tightly bunched Intermountain Conference softball standings, no team can expect to remain undefeated for all 14 games.
But, whether the feat is expected or unexpected, Pendleton is the only team left with a shot after this week.
The Buckaroos (17-0, 6-0 IMC) took one step closer to a monumental milestone Tuesday when they ended Hood River Valley's own undefeated bid by a score of 6-1.
Pendleton scored five runs off Talia Hinman in the third inning, and cruised the rest of the way to finish off the Eagles (10-6 overall), who had begun IMC play with a stout 5-0 record.
"You have to hand it to them," HRV coach Phil Hukari said. "They are a strong and experienced team that got the big hits when they needed 'em. And we're going to have to improve in a few areas if we are going to play at that level next time."
Hukari said the Eagles played adequate defense, but were thrown off balance by Pendleton's powerful lineup and overall team speed. He said the infielders had to hurry a few throws to first, and one error ended up costing them in Pendleton's breakout inning.
"We were a little shaky at times," he said. "We made a few defensive mistakes, and they were able to capitalize. But that's the sign of a young team. Overall, we proved we can play with them, and the whole team believes we can get 'em on our home field (May 20)."
Last Saturday's hero, freshman Meghan Flem, notched three more basehits to lead the HRV offense, which totaled seven hits on the afternoon. Hinman had two, while Ashley Carter and Katie Pritchett each had one. Flem knocked in HRV's only run in the sixth inning with a double off the wall.
But, while the bats continued to emerge from a recent slumber, Hukari's main concern after Tuesday's game was the health of his star pitcher, Hinman, who injured her hip late in the game.
HRV has also had to cope with the loss of another key contributor, freshman Stefanie Draper, who has missed the last four games because of two injured wrists.
"We're a little concerned about the injuries because Talia and Stef are two of our main contributors on offense and defense," Hukari said. "But a couple days off should help."
HRV played a non-conference game with Oregon City on Thursday, but results were not available at press time. The Eagles' next IMC matchup is today's double header at Crook County.