By DAVE LEDER
News staff writer
BEND — With Saturday’s steamrolling of Bend High, the Hood River Valley softball team did its part to set up a Tuesday showdown with The Dalles-Wahtonka for first place in the Intermountain Conference.
But the Eagles-Indians did HRV an unexpected favor on Saturday, losing game one of their double-header at Mountain View by a score of 2-1.
TDW’s first loss of the season, combined with the Eagles’ two wins of 15-0 and 6-0, put HRV all alone atop the league standings at 6-0 (9-5 overall).
Even better, it lessened the Eagles’ burden as they zero in on their first-ever IMC championship.
“None of us could believe it when we heard The Dalles lost,” said HRV senior second baseman Ashley Delepine, who went 3-4 with three RBI’s in last Saturday’s game one. “We still need to beat them, but now we know they are beatable.”
However, Delepine and the Eagles aren’t letting their 6-0 start in league play go to their heads. Even after pounding out 31 hits in two games against Bend, this team still knows there is much work to be done.
“No one is too excited yet,” said junior catcher Rochelle Friend, one of six HRV players who had multiple hits in game one against Bend. “We still have to play The Dalles and Redmond twice, and anything can happen.”
Nine league games remain after Tuesday’s showdown in The Dalles. But the good news is, the HRV bats have emerged from an early-season slumber, while the pitchers — Chelsey Elliott and Lindsey Smith — have found their midseason groove.
Also encouraging, the HRV defense didn’t commit an error in either of Saturday’s games.
“Our defense has been improving, but we didn’t get that many chances against Bend because they didn’t hit the ball very well in either game,” Friend said.
Elliott held the Lava Bears to just two hits and struck out 13 in game one, giving her 27 K’s in her past two outings.
She also led the team in hitting, going 4-5 from the plate and tallying an RBI basehit.
“I’m feeling a lot more confident with my rise ball,” Elliott said of her newest pitching weapon. “Coach (Wayne) Smith has helped me a lot, and now that I have figured out the right grip, it’s starting to work pretty well.”
Lindsey Smith, the Eagles’ No. 2 pitcher, nearly matched Elliott’s dominance in game two on Saturday, picking up her fifth victory of the season by striking out four and allowing just three hits.
“Lindsey was wonderful in the circle against Bend, and located her pitches well the whole game,” said assistant coach Smith (no relation). “She had some great pitching sequences that had the hitters baffled.”
Overall, everything seems to be clicking for the Eagles thus far in IMC play. Saturday’s two shutouts represented HRV’s first two bagels of the season. Their 31 hits on Saturday (21 in game one, 10 in game two) were also a season best.
Six HRV players registered multiple hits in game one, with Elliott (4-5, RBI), Friend (2-5), Delepine (3-4, three RBI), Meghan Flem (2-4, two RBI), Katie Flory (2-3, RBI) and Kayla Monahan (2-3, two RBI) leading the way. The HRV offense continued to roll in game two, with Flory, Smith, Flem and Katie Pritchett all notching two basehits.
Despite the offensive fireworks, the Eagles knew they would have to be at their best to defeat The Dalles and their star pitcher, Sarah Clark, on Tuesday (results not yet available).
“The best competition is yet to come,” said Elliott, who will counter Clark in the circle. “The fastest pitcher we’ll see in this league is from The Dalles (Clark), so we know we’re going to have to play our best to beat her.”
Yet another highlight over the weekend came from senior catcher Katie Pritchett, who gunned down four runners at second base in game two.
“That’s one of those things she will never forget,” coach Smith said. “I’ve never seen that happen at any level, and Katie should be proud of that accomplishment.”