If you don’t let the other team hit the ball, they can’t beat you.
Which is exactly what Hood River Valley’s pitchers were thinking last Saturday at Westside Field, helping the Eagles to wins of 3-0 and 1-0 over Bend.
The Lava Bears mustered just six hits in two games against Talia Hinman and Lauren Gaulke, and were unable to get on the scoreboard despite carrying with them a powerful reputation.
“There was a lot of hype about them being better than their record,” said junior centerfielder Michelle Connors. “They weren’t scared of us, but our pitchers were just too tough today.”
Hinman won game one and saved game two for Gaulke, who gave up just four hits in five innings of shutout work. Hinman’s line in game one featured five strikeouts and only one hit, while her two-inning effort in game two also included five strikeouts and one basehit allowed.
With Saturday’s two wins, HRV (15-7 overall, 10-1 IMC) clinched a 4A state playoff berth for the second straight year, and will begin postseason play on May 26, likely at home.
The Eagles now have three consecutive shutouts and five straight wins, putting them in a position to win the league title.
“This is pretty exciting for us,” said Gaulke, a senior who won her fourth IMC game of the year.
“We haven’t done this well since I’ve been here, and I feel pretty confident in our team. But we need to finish No. 1 or No. 2 so we can improve our chances of winning in the playoffs,” she said.
However, the Eagles must first get past fourth-place Redmond on Friday, and undefeated Pendleton on May 20 in Hood River.
If the Eagles win both games versus Redmond, and then find a way to break down the senior-laden Buckaroos lineup next Tuesday, they would earn the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed.
But even if the Eagles drop two of their final three games, they would still have the No. 2 seed locked up.
“We just need to keep winning, especially against Pendleton,” said Connors, who went 1-3 in game one and 0-3 in game two. “If we can get past them, we would feel unstoppable heading into the playoffs.”
One area the Eagles must improve upon heading into the playoffs is their offense, which recorded just five hits in two games against Bend.
All three of HRV’s runs in game one were unearned, while the lone run in game two was scored via “little ball.”
Gaulke led off the third inning with a single and gave way to pinch runner Katie Flory. Maria Martinez sacrificed Flory to second base before Ashley Heck drove in the run with a fielder’s choice.
In game one, Hinman recorded the lone RBI with a single to score Ashley Carter, also in the third inning. The other two runs (Becki Flory and Martinez) scored after two Bend fielding errors.
“It was nice to finally score first,” Connors said. “We’ve been playing from behind a lot lately, and it helps to build a lead so the offense doesn’t have to panic in the late innings.”
If the Eagles can build a lead, they have enough confidence in their pitching and defense to hold onto it.
“Talia must have increased her velocity by 5 mph in game two,” assistant coach Wayne Smith said. “She just gets stronger with every inning.”