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Big win, big smiles for Eagle softball

April 30, 2011

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The HRV infield celebrates a strikeout by pitcher Kayla Byers of a Hermiston hitter Wednesday.

The Hood River Valley softball team can't fly under the radar anymore.

Not after a doubleheader sweep of then-No. 1-ranked Pendleton over the weekend or a 7-4 win over No. 2-ranked Hermiston Tuesday.

Annie Veatch went 4-for-4 at the plate, Hannah Williams drove in a pair of insurance runs in the fifth inning and the Eagles rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Bulldogs.

"They understood their approach at the plate today," HRV coach Eric Keller said. "A lot of things we were talking about came into work today."

At the start of the season the Eagles were an all-or-nothing team, capable of scoring 10 runs or being shut out in back-to-back games, where one mistake could make the difference between victory and defeat.

The Eagles did not get their best pitching or defensive performances of the season Tuesday, but fought through the occasional miscue to still get the win.

"We've been talking a lot about keeping up the pressure on teams," Keller said. "It's great to know you can make some mistakes and still come away with a victory."

Hermiston loaded the bases with no out in the first inning, only to see HRV pitcher Kayla Byers dance out of danger with a ground-out, pop-up and another ground-out.

The Eagles got on the board on a Veatch single in the first, but could not get out of danger so easily in the second when Hermiston again loaded the bases with no out.

A hit batter brought in one run, and a two-out, two-strike wild pitch brought in two more.

The Eagles wasted no time in coming back. They loaded the bases with one out on singles by Amanda McCafferty and Williams and a walk to Erica Enriquez and then scored three runs on back-to-back hits by Katie Wood and Hallie Curtis.

That ended the scoring until bottom of the fifth when the Eagles put the game away. Veatch dropped a single between three Hermiston fielders. Katie White pinch-ran at first base and was promptly driven home by Megan Winans, who crushed a double to right center field but was thrown out trying to advance to third.

Kayla Byers followed with another double and Natalya Ames walked. After McCafferty moved the runners over, Williams blooped a shallow single onto the right field foul line to score both runners and just beat the ensuing throw to first base.

"I probably would not have gotten out without my teammates encouraging me," Williams said.

By the fifth, Byers had shaken off her early struggles and kept Hermiston from mounting any significant threats. She struck out four over the final three innings, including a perfectly spotted fastball to get Courtney Howard looking to end the game.

"We are feeling pretty good and we are really growing as a team," Williams said of the team-wide effort to get the win.

The Eagles improved to 3-2 in league with the win and into a two-way tie with Pendleton for first place in the league.

They head to Hermiston today for a doubleheader before returning home to face the Bulldogs again Tuesday.

Coming off the doubleheader win over Pendleton and the win over Hermiston, Keller said he was trying to keep the team humble and prepared for a long day Saturday, which starts with a lengthy bus ride and has games starting at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

But he was confident they would be ready for the trip.

"If you can make a three-hour drive to Pendleton after sitting in class you can do two-and-a-half to Hermiston after getting a good night's sleep," he said.

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