HRV softball, baseball, just miss on potential playoff upsets

May 28, 2011

In a matter of a few pitches everything went wrong for the Hood River Valley baseball and softball teams Wednesday afternoon.

The Eagle softball team allowed five runs in the sixth inning in a 6-1 loss to the West Albany Bulldogs while the HRV baseball team gave up five runs in the fifth in a 12-5 loss.

Making their first state appearance at the 5A level, both Eagle teams hung with their opponents before the wheels came off in one inning.

In the softball contest, Kayla Byers of HRV and Heather Connelly of West Albany dueled into the sixth inning.

West Albany scored the first run of the game in the fourth when Connelly singled to lead off the bottom of the inning and was eventually driven home on a single by Annie Dierks.

After Connelly helped her own cause with the single and a run in the bottom of the fourth, Byers helped her own cause to open the fifth.

She crushed the first pitch she saw from Connelly over the centerfield fence to tie up the game. In the process she knocked out West Albany centerfielder Janey Ganta, who ran into the fence at full speed in attempt to catch the home run.

However, the Eagles were unable to muster any more offense off Connelly, who kept the Eagle hitters tied up with a deceptive rise ball.

"We're an incredibly talented squad but we hadn't seen the rise ball much this year," HRV coach Eric Keller said.

In the bottom of the fifth, the HRV defense helped keep them in the game. Ashley Wirth led off the inning with a line drive to right field, but Erica Enriquez got to the ball quickly and threw to first base to get Wirth by a step.

Dariety Macanally then hit a sinking line drive into the hole at shortstop, but Hallie Curtis made a nice back-handed catch. Byers then struck out Renee LaFountaine to end the inning.

The Eagle defense also came up big to open the sixth, with Enriquez making a diving grab off a Beth Anne Neuschwinder line drive.

However, with two outs Kayleen Gary singled, beginning a hit parade that blew the game open.

Dierks then singled, Kiara Vazquez doubled in a run, Kylie Bellis walked and Wirth then tripled to right field to clear the bases. Macanally then singled in Vasquez and the Bulldogs were in complete control.

"They finally figured out our strategy," Keller said. "They were putting the ball were we weren't."

After the game, Keller said he saw plenty of downcast faces in the team huddle, but told them to use the loss as a learning experience for when they get back to state.

"Our goal is to get to the dance every year," he said. "We had some disappointed faces in the post-game huddle and I told them that it sucks but that we can get back."

The story was similar at Goss Stadium on the campus of Oregon State University, where the baseball game was moved due to weather after originally being scheduled to be played at West Albany.

HRV coach Erich Harjo said playing the game at Goss Stadium lent it a state championship feel.

"They had a great time and we got there early so we could get the heebie-jeebies out," he said. "Hopefully we'll be back."

The Eagles took a 3-1 lead in the second inning on singles by Cody Walker and Grant Young as well as a wild pitch.

The Eagles collected six straight hits, all singles, off West Albany starter Nolan Burright in the frame to chase him from the ball game. However, Riley Jarrett came on in relief to stop the Hood River hit parade and he was able to keep the HRV offense quiet as West Albany rallied.

In the bottom of the second, Cody James tripled in a pair of runs and was then driven in on a groundout to get a lead back for the Bulldogs.They would not relinquish it.

They added a run in the fourth before the Eagles bounced back with a run on a Ryan Combelic double in the fifth to again close the gap to a run. HRV got no closer after leaving two men stranded at base in the inning.

In the bottom of the fifth West Albany got Jacob Stitzel and Taylor Burner aboard on one-out singles. That's when HRV's struggles began.

Stitzel attempted to steal third, but was caught off the bag by Sherrell, who threw to second. Stitzel made a beeline for third base and got in just under the tag. On the next pitch, Burner broke for second, but was also caught between the bases by Sherrell. However, Sherrell's throw to second went into centerfield which allowed Stitzel to score from third and Burner to go to third.

Sherrell then walked Nick Lebengood before being relieved by Gabi Nunos.

Things did not get better after that for HRV.

Jesse Trader promptly singled home a run, and Cody James followed with another single to score another run. After the second out on a sacrifice bunt, Jarrett doubled down the left field line to score a plate of runs and finish the transformation from a one-run to six-run lead.

"It just kind of goes back to some of the signs of mental lapses we dealt with before," Harjo said. "We didn't know what to do with the baseball."

The Eagles would get a run on a Lucio Alaniz single in the sixth off reliever Taylor Burner, but West Albany added two more in the sixth on a balk and another HRV error.

"We were in that ball game," Harjo said. "It felt more like a two-run ballgame than a 10-run ball game."

Like the softball team, the Eagles had plenty of younger players both watching and playing in the contest and Harjo hopes that the game serves as motivation to come back and get another shot.

"I told them before the game 'Don't be happy just being here," he said. "'Do something about being here and want to get back here.'"

The game was the final one for senior Katie Wood on the HRV softball team and seniors David Gibson, Ryan Combelic, Grant Young, Alex Escoodebo, Alfredo Oseguera, Sam Lee, Eric McNerney, Ryley Gilbert and Parker Sherrell for the Eagle baseball team.

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