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The gnome watches, the girls win again

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

April 29, 2006

The lucky gnome watches from a distance in the dugout, spreading his good fortune to all who rub his tiny gold hat and red knapsack.

The wee little man with the grand white beard, chubby cheeks and pointy black shoes is short and fragile, sensitive and a little bit rugged. He is a traveler, a cheerleader and a guru of sorts. And he is the lucky object of affection for an impressive team of young ladies.

This spring, the auspicious little mascot has indeed brought good fortune to his constituents.

Of course, at 16-1 overall and 9-0 in the Intermountain Conference, the Hood River Valley High School varsity softball team has proved to be far beyond lucky this season. The previously-underrated team of Eagles battled this week to a 5-0 victory over their closest IMC competition, Pendleton (12-5, 7-2), leaving the No. 6 ranked Hood River girls with little threat left in the IMC. In nine league games, the Eagles have won seven shout-outs, allowed only one team (Summit) to touch home plate against them and averaged 10.3 runs a game to outscore their opposition 93 runs to five.

After dousing Summit’s undefeated IMC streak last weekend in Bend with 9-4 and 17-1 victories, the Eagles hosted the league’s then second place team, Pendleton, on Tuesday. The 5-0 win makes it 15 in a row for the Eagles, who are now ranked sixth in the state at the 4A level.

Stefanie Draper pitched her 10th and perhaps best victory of the season against the Buckaroos. With 14 strikeouts and zero walks, Draper gave up only two hits in the seven innings of play. Solid defensive backing from the field gave the senior pitcher another shutout to her credit as well.

Offensively, Chelsey Elliott scored first for the Eagles in the first inning of an RBI double by Brianne Rowley. Draper then batted Rowley in to give the girls a 2-0 lead after the first inning.

After the first inning, Draper, Friend and the fielders teamed up to retire the next six innings worth of batters without giving up a single hit.

In the second inning Lindsey Smith took the easy route to first with a walk. Rochelle Friend nailed a shot to centerfield, which nailed the Buckaroo fielder and fell to the ground, allowing Smith time to round the bases and score.

The Eagles scored two more in the fourth after Sarah Wood and Kate Blumenthal reached second and third base by a hit-by-pitch, a sacrifice fly and a single. Elliott smacked a double to bat in both Wood and Blumenthal before the Buckaroos could end the inning.

The gnome and company hosts Crook County today for a double-header against the Cowboys (2-7 in the IMC). Action starts at 1 p.m.

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