The Hood River Valley High School varsity softball team played to a 3-0 win and a 4-1 loss on the road Saturday against The Dalles-Wahtonka. The split puts the rival teams in a tie for third place in the Columbia River Conference with 2-6 league records.
“It was good to get a win, but it’s just frustrating that we didn’t play our best in the second game after we played real solid in the first contest,” Coach Eric Keller said after the doubleheader.
The Eagles, ranked seventh in the OSAA’s Class 5A level, gained a confidence boost from the day’s action, and with key contests to determine playoff berths in the near future, the team had an important rematch at home Tuesday in which the winner settled into third place and the loser dropped to fourth in CRC standings (results were not available as of press time).
“We just have to come out to the ballpark ready to play our best and if we do that, then everything will be just fine,” said Keller.
Junior hurler Kayla Byers fired a one-hitter and drove in two runs and junior Erika Enriquez had an RBI to help lead the Eagles to the impressive shutout victory in Saturday’s first contest.
“I’m not disappointed with the split because we hit the ball pretty well in both games,” said Byers. “Our hitting has steadily improved and our fielding is pretty sharp. We just made a couple of little errors that hurt us in Game 2. I think we can beat them on Tuesday. It’s going to be another tough battle because they’re a good team and we’ll have to fight hard to get the win.”
The Eagles got off to another good start in Game 2 with three baserunners to help them grab an early lead. Sophomore catcher Kelsey Wells ripped a grounder to left field, driving home leadoff batter Madi Vallejo, who reached base on an error. Senior shortstop Amanda McCafferty singled with a sharply hit grounder to left field. Wells and McCafferty were left stranded, but HRV grabbed a 1-0 first inning edge
“We were hitting well, but we would hit the ball right to their fielders too often,” said McCafferty. “We came out and had a strong start in both games and we played with a good intensity level throughout each contest. I thought we did a good job today and I think our momentum will continue in Tuesday’s game, so we’ll have a good chance to win.”
Following two scoreless frames, TDW knotted it up 1-1 in the fourth and took the lead in the fifth, scoring two runs to go ahead 3-1. The Eagles had a golden opportunity to narrow the margin in the sixth with two runners on base, but both were left stranded as it remained 3-1. In the bottom of the frame, the Eagle Indians added an insurance run to take a 4-1 lead after six.
“I was excited that we took an early lead,” said Keller. “We did it the right way and brought a runner home, but you can never get too comfortable against The Dalles Wahtonka with a 1-0 lead because you know they’re going to come back.”
The Eagles had the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh after Rose Baker singled and Enriquez reached on an error but were unable to plate any other runs.
“We’re hoping to finish in the top seven in the rankings and we still have a shot at finishing second in the CRC,” said Byers. “I think we’re capable of going far in the playoffs too. I think the lineup changes are going to help our team. We’re already starting to play well together, so things are looking good.”
HRV played its last three games on the road, including a 4-2 loss April 23 at Hermiston in which the Eagles outhit the Bulldogs 9-7 but were unable to seal a victory. In that contest, it was Byers (eight strikeouts) again leading the Eagles defense and offense as she has done all season. Byers (2-for-3) smashed a first inning solo homer — her fifth this year — to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage.
Hermiston responded with a three-run third to take a 3-1 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Sophomore Breanna Weekly (1-for-3, RBI) and senior Hannah Williams (2-for-3, double) contributed to HRV’s offensive attack.
Sophomore newcomers Jessica DeHart and Jessica Karr were recently moved up from the junior varsity squad to help fill recent team vacancies and round out the Eagle roster. Both played their first varsity game last Tuesday versus Hermiston.
“The loss of experience affected the team a little, but everyone has stepped up their performance level a couple of notches,” said Keller. “DeHart and Karr have made significant contributions and they’ve adapted well to their new roles.”
The Eagles, first in the CRC in defense (3.26 runs allowed per game), play three of their next four games at home. Following Tuesday’s matchup, the team hosts No. 1 ranked Pendleton (7-1, 18-4) May 3 at 4:30 p.m, then travels to Hermiston (5-3, 12-10) May 7 and concludes the regular season May 10 at home versus TDW.
Leading 11-8 in the second game of a Columbia River Conference baseball doubleheader, the Hood River Valley High School varsity baseball team seemed on target to get a split over a highly-regarded The Dalles Wahtonka Eagle Indian squad (7-1 CRC, 16-5 overall) Saturday. TDW proved worthy of its Class 5A top-five OSAA ranking, however, and recorded a come-from-behind 12-11 win to accompany its narrow 2-0 first-game victory to sweep the Eagles at Quinton Street Ballpark in The Dalles.
Coach Eric Harjo and his Eagles (3-5 CRC, 10-11) will look for revenge over their CRC rivals in a 4:30 p.m. rematch Tuesday on HRV’s home turf.
“We were really hoping to get a split and we played pretty well, but it just wasn’t good enough,” Harjo said. “Our team is better than what they showed today and I think they’ll bounce back and play better on Tuesday. We’ll have Connor Olson out on the mound and maybe we’ll get the job done right. Hopefully, we’ll support him offensively by getting some hits and playing good defense. It will be nice playing at home and we’ll see what happens.”
In Game 1, HRV sophomore hurler Ryan Ward had a strong performance as he scattered six hits and allowed just two runs in six innings pitched. HRV’s offense was thwarted though by TDW senior pitcher Dakota Walker, who threw a two-hitter. Alex Jimenez and Kam Walker were the only Eagles to get hits as TDW outhit HRV 6-2 in the low-scoring pitcher’s duel.
“We didn’t hit well in the first game,” said Harjo. “There are things we have to work on and we just have to concentrate on being mentally tough. It’s not easy getting a win here, but you have to try to take care of business when you’re playing in somebody else’s ballpark. Things get all hyped up with the rivalry and everything that goes along with that. We’ll just have to deal with a couple of tough losses and move on to the next game.”
In a seesaw Game 2, TDW overcame three-run deficits twice (9-6 and 11-8) to pull out the 12-11 win. The Eagle Indians, guided by coach JR Runyon, have a remarkable home record as they’re undefeated in league (7-0) and 13-1 overall at Quinton Street Ballpark.
“They (HRV) are a well-coached and disciplined club and to get two wins against them was a pretty big accomplishment,” Runyon said after the dual. “They competed hard all day. The first game was a battle and so was the second one. We were fortunate to come out on top, because the outcome could’ve gone either way. It’s going to be more of the same on Tuesday with two tough teams battling it out.”
The Eagles have endured three tough road losses, including an 8-4 loss to the Hermiston Bulldogs April 23. In that matchup, Jimenez had a fantastic effort as he batted 3-for-4 with two singles and he hit his first home run this year.
Trailing 7-1 in the fifth, Jimenez smashed a three-run homer, trimming the margin to 7-4. Senior first baseman Nick Weekly was tough at the plate too as he was 1-for-3, with an RBI. Hermiston outhit HRV 8-6.
The Eagles hope to turn things around at home, where they’ll play three of their next four games. After Tuesday’s contest, the team hosts Pendleton (2-6, 10-11) Friday at 4:30 p.m., travels to Hermiston (4-4, 11-6) May 7 and concludes the regular season at home May 10 vs. TDW.