By CHRISTIAN KNIGHT
News staff writer
Redmond pitcher Ashley Gibson snarled at Hood River Valley batters all afternoon long Saturday.
And her snarl, combined with a streaking fastball and well-choreographed "junk," dominated the Eagles for one and a half games of the two teams’ doubleheader.
That dominance crumbled in the top of the third inning of game two, however, when Eagles junior pitcher Chelsey Elliott drove a triple into the gap between center and left field.
That triple became the first of six runs the Eagles would score in the third and fifth innings, when catcher Rochelle Friend singled her home in the next at-bat.
Friend's second RBI sparked a five-run fifth inning for Hood River Valley.
"I just didn't want to leave her out there," Friend said of the two times she singled Elliott home.
The Eagles won game two 6-1 to split the doubleheader with the Panthers.
Hood River Valley moved to 12-2 in the league. Redmond is now 10-4.
The Dalles, at 10-2, now represents the only team in the Intermountain Conference with a reasonable chance at sharing or owning the league title.
But that opportunity hinges on a The Dalles victory March 16 against the Eagles.
Saturday's doubleheader brought two of the Intermountain Conference's best pitchers to the same fastpitch diamond.
Both pitchers competed exceptionally well. Gibson had held the Eagles to zero runs, zero walks and just three hits in game one, beating Hood River Valley 2-0.
But as the Mt. Hood Community College-recruit's dominance crumbled in the third and fifth innings of game two, Elliott's surged. Hood River's junior pitcher struck out four, walked zero, gave up two hits and allowed zero earned runs in game two.
"We think we started timing her," Elliott said. "We'd seen it (Gibson's pitching) enough in the first game. She was just working it a lot."
And whereas Gibson's intimidation diminished into the second game, Elliott's dominance grew with each pitch. Even Redmond's coach was impressed, commenting to Hood River Valley coach Phil Hukari while watching Elliott work from the third baseline.
I know, Hukari said. And this is Elliott's first double-header.
Elliott struck out 13 Saturday, nine in the first game, four in the second. She gave up two earned runs, six hits and two walks in the first game; but rebounded in the second game to allow just two hits and zero earned runs.
The closest the Eagles had come to reaching home plate until the third inning of game two was when Elliott had reached first base on one of the Eagles' two hits in that game. She reached third through a series of groundouts.
In her Elliot's second at-bat in game two, however, she reached second base on an error. And again, Friend drove her home with a double to centerfield. Senior first baseman Meghan Flem's double in the next at-bat drove Friend to a sliding grasp for home plate, which made the score 3-0.
By the end of the inning, four more Eagles batters had reached first base - Brianne Rowley and Kayla Monahan did it off singles; Kara Graves and Sarah Wood did it off a walk. Flem and Rowley scored.
The Panthers only run in game two came with two outs in the top of the seventh inning off a short pop fly along the first base line. Elliott and Flem both charged the ball and fumbled it.
The fourth Redmond batter in that inning reached third base on a couple of throwing errors, allowing the Panthers to score one.
Elliott went 3-4 with a single, double and triple. Flem was 4-4 with a double and two RBIs.
Katie Pritchett also had a single.
Hood River Valley's home game against David Douglas was cancelled due to rain. The Eagles next home game will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday against Hermiston.