By CHRISTIAN KNIGHT
News staff writer
March 18, 2006
The crack of the bat was so convincing it ignited Centennials’ two baserunners on a mad dash toward home plate.
And it volleyed the neon-green softball far into center field. Far enough that for a moment, in the top of this fifth inning, you realized Centennial had just somehow tied this lopsided game up at five runs apiece.
But Hood River Valley’s centerfielder, Melissa Bramlett, ran the ball down, making a leaning grab.
The runners then, backtracked from home plate and third base respectively as Bramlett tried to get the ball to second base.
Her throw fell short. And Centennial’s runners were too fast.
The fly ball could have tied the game or ended the inning. But it did neither.
It just put the game back into senior pitcher Chelsey Elliott’s palm.
Five fastballs later, Elliott ended the inning with one of her nine strikeouts throughout the game.
And the Eagles out-threw, out-batted this 2005 playoff team 5-2.
Elliott gave up three hits and three walks.
The Eagles gave Elliott all she’d need to win this Thursday afternoon non-conference game by the first inning.
Catcher Rochelle Friend and first baseman Meghan Flem filled first and second base, setting up the Eagles’ first run of the game — an RBI off shortstop Stefani Draper’s single.
Kayla Monahan’s slap to right centerfield two outs in the inning drove Flem home, and established her on second base.
Now leading 2-1, Draper, who had advanced to third base, stole home plate on a wild pitch.
Happy reunion –
Two seasons have passed since Hood River Valley senior Stefani Draper last slung one of her devious change-ups toward a batter while wearing an Eagles uniform.
And on Tuesday, she showed her teammates just how easily she can slide into blue and gold in the Eagles’ first softball game of the season against Gresham.
Draper struck out seven Gresham batters and allowed zero to cross home plate, helping Hood River Valley to a 2-0 win and its first non-conference victory of the season.
“We’ve missed her the last two seasons,” said Hood River Valley coach Phil Hukari. “But now she’s home, where she belongs.”
Her enigmatic array of pitches forced four three-and-out innings; many of those were in-field grounders.
Early on, the Eagles suggested this game against a team that reached the second round of the playoffs might be a rout.
That suggestion came off catcher Rochelle Friend’s bat in the bottom of the first inning. And it landed in center field with Friend completing a stand-up double.
A pitch to senior first baseman Meghan Flem later, and Friend had stolen third base.
And just as she had done all season, Flem rewarded her teammate with a line-drive that drove Friend home and gave the Eagles their first run of the game.
Hood River Valley sent four more batters to the plate in that inning and for a brief time, loaded the bases. But the Eagles never succeeded in getting another across the plate until the bottom of the fifth inning.
In that inning, senior short-stop Chelsey Elliott reached first base on a driveling bunt. And Friend advanced her to second using the same tactic.
Flem’s single drove Elliott to third. Elliott, then, stole home on a wild pitch.