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Looking out for No. 1 If the Eagles are going to hold on to a No. 1 seed, they will have to sweep Redmond, something they couldn’t do in the last two years

By CHRISTIAN KNIGHT

News staff writer

May 7, 2005

If Hood River Valley is going to maintain its grasp on the Intermountain Conference title, it will today have to figure out how to keep its grip on Redmond. And to do that, the Eagles will have to crack the arsenal of a two-time all league pitcher who has pinned down her opponents with a 1.46 earned run average all season.

Redmond's Ashley Gibson, who recently signed with Mt. Hood Community College, has plagued batters all spring with her powerful fastballs and wide repertoire of pitches. In a game against Bend, Gibson struck out 22.

But then again, Hood River Valley has its own cannon in junior Chelsey Elliott, who like Gibson was a first team all league pitcher as a sophomore. Elliott's has been even stingier this season, holding opposing teams to 1.39 earned runs per game.

And Hood River Valley coach Phil Hukari knows in game two of the doubleheader, he can put the ball in sophomore Lindsey Smith's palm. Her E.R.A. this season is 1.86.

"Both teams feature power pitchers and solid seasons so far," wrote Hood River Valley head coach Phil Hukari. "Both teams have battled even the last two seasons. Both teams want to establish momentum heading into the playoffs. Both teams have league title hopes. Both teams have rich softball traditions."

Fortunately Hood River has groomed powerful hitters in the high school's fastpitch team, which features sluggers like Kara Graves, Lindsey Smith, Katie Flory and Meghan Flem, who drove a three-run homer over the centerfield fence last Monday against Crook County.

In 54 at-bats, Flem has tallied 27 hits and reached at least first base 34 times this season by taking a team-leading 18 walks.

Elliott has the dual ability to frighten batters as much as she can frighten pitchers. She's disappointed opposing pitchers 24 times in her 65 at-bats, seven times on multiple-base hits.

"I think right now if you compared person for person, we have a better hitting team," Hukari said.

Still, Hood River Valley has not escaped a regular season series without a loss to Redmond. Its record in the last two years is 2-2.

Dropping one today will allow The Dalles to vie for first place in league.

Dropping two would force Hood River Valley to share the third spot with Redmond, something Hukari desperately wants to avoid.

"The important thing is the first two teams host state playoffs," Hukari said. "The third and fourth teams travel. So you want to make at least the first two teams.”

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