By DAVE LEDER
News staff writer
HOOD RIVER — Chelsey Elliott had her mojo workin’ twice this week, pitching two consecutive shutouts to help the Hood River Valley softball team regain sole possession of first place in the Intermountain Conference.
On Tuesday against Pendleton, the junior fireballer struck out 12 batters on the way to her first career no-hitter. Then on Wednesday, Elliott struck out nine and allowed just one hit to win game one of a make-up double-header with Summit.
“Chelsey needed a couple starts like that to boost her confidence,” said coach Phil Hukari, whose Eagles defeated Pendleton 9-0, and downed Summit by scores of 10-0 and 8-2 to improve to 9-1 in the IMC (12-6 overall).
“She is one of three potentially dominant pitchers in this league, and we’re going to need to see her to throw like that the rest of the way if we want to win this thing.”
Elliott had a shaky outing against The Dalles-Wahtonka on April 19, and was determined to atone for the team’s first and only league defeat. Pendleton was the unlucky recipient of Elliott’s wrath, landing just one runner on base the entire game.
Meanwhile, the HRV offense was equally hot this week, picking up 13 basehits on Tuesday and a combined 21 hits on Wednesday.
Sophomore third baseman Brianne Rowley added to her torrid stretch by going 2-4 with an RBI against Pendleton, and 4-4 with an RBI in game one against Summit.
Senior centerfielder Katie Flory and and junior catcher Rochelle Friend each tagged three hits in game two against Summit, while Katie Pritchett, Ashley Delepine and Elliott each delivered two hits in that game.
Junior rightfielder Kayla Monahan added two hits and an RBI against Pendleton, while Flory had another multi-hit effort against the Bucks.
“Our whole team is really hitting the ball well right now,” Hukari said. “But the best thing for us is that everyone from one to nine is contributing. The hits have been spread out among a number of different people, and that makes it tough on opposing pitchers.”
One player who is rightfully frustrated at the plate these days is junior first baseman Meghan Flem. The 2004 all-state selection continues to maintain a .500-plus average, but her reputation as a basher has forced the league’s pitchers to throw her low and away.
The good news for the Eagles, however, is that their No. 4, 5 and 6 batters have all been effective game in and game out. Rowley has emerged as a bona fide cleanup hitter, while Pritchett and Delepine have been both consistent and lethal at the plate.
In game one against Summit, Delepine went 2-2 with an RBI, and in game two Pritchett socked an RBI triple to give HRV an early 3-1 lead. The No. 7 hitter, Monahan, has developed into a solid hitter, while Flory has become a huge threat in the No. 9 spot.
“Everyone is stepping up at the plate, with nine of our top 10 hitters batting .300 or above in league play,” Hukari said.
“But I’m still not comfortable. I think a good power pitcher can beat us, and obviously we have some weaknesses because we’ve lost six games. We just need to sweep Crook County on Friday (results not yet available), and then get ready for a big double-header against Redmond.”
The Panthers, who will be in town on May 7, boast one of the IMC’s three dominant pitchers in senior Ashley Gibson. Her most recent outing was a 1-0, eight-inning win on Tuesday against The Dalles-Wahtonka, which put Redmond and TDW in a second place tie at 7-2.
The IMC’s third elite hurler is Sarah Clark of The Dalles, who defeated HRV 6-4 on April 19.
Hukari said there are also a number of “second-tier” pitchers in the IMC. That group includes Crook County’s Billie Jean Siers and HRV sophomore Lindsey Smith, who earned her sixth victory of the year in Wednesday’s game two against Summit.
“Crook County doesn’t give up a lot of runs, but the question is, will they be able to hit off of our two pitchers,” Hukari said. “I honestly believe they are the fourth best team in the league right now, and we can’t afford a letdown.”
HRV has won eight of its last nine league games, outscoring its opponents at an alarming rate of 88-13 during that span.
For the latest team news, visit: http://hrvsoftball.blogdrive.com.