MEDFORD — Youthful inexperience finally caught up to the Hood River Valley softball team Wednesday when the Eagles faced defending state champion and No. 4-ranked North Medford in the third round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
The Black Tornado employed a variety of veteran tactics to frustrate sophomore pitcher Talia Hinman, and eventually broke her down in the fifth inning on the way to a 9-0 win and a berth in the quarterfinals.
“We just got beat,” HRV assistant coach Wayne Smith said. “No question that North Medford has a good softball tradition, and they are a well-coached team. Our girls played their hearts out, but just couldn’t overcome the variables of the game.”
Smith pointed to variables such as the length of the game — more than two hours, compared to an average game time of 90 minutes — and the Black Tornado’s delay strategies at the plate, which forced Hinman into a season-high five walks (Totals: 5 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 6 H, 3 K).
Smith said Hinman was also called for six illegal pitches due to a “one-inch hop” that hadn’t been called in the Eagles’ first 26 games.
“We go an entire season using umpires from Florida, Blue Mountain, Bend, Portland and the Mid Columbia, and this wasn’t called one time,” he said.
But, despite all the intangibles, HRV had little chance of winning after the three-run fifth inning, in which North Medford upped its lead to 5-0.
The Black Tornado scored one run in the second inning and one in the fourth before breaking the game open with three runs in the fifth and four more in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Eagle offense mustered just two hits off senior pitcher Keri Sevano (Hinman and Michelle Connors). The Eagles also committed three errors on the afternoon.
HRV finished 18-9 overall and earned the first playoff win for the program since 1998. Smith and head coach Phil Hukari congratulated the team on an outstanding campaign, and thanked the three seniors — Becki Flory, Lori Wimmers and Lauren Gaulke — for their undying service over the past four years.