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Key catch cuts Eagle softball short of win over Bucks

In a Columbia River Conference softball matchup between two of the state’s top-five ranked 5A softball teams, the Hood River Valley High Eagles had the No. 1 ranked Pendleton Buckaroos right where they wanted them — in a late-inning deadlock with a chance to win. The fifth-ranked Eagles (3-7 CRC, 13-8 overall) had lost twice to the Bucks earlier in the season by a total of just three runs and had a golden opportunity to knock off the defending conference and state champion in a home game Friday afternoon.

Despite the Eagles’ best attempt, however, the Buckaroos slipped away with a 2-1 win.

“We played fantastic, but we just couldn’t get enough runs across the plate,” said Coach Eric Keller. “Facing the best team in the state and going toe-to-toe with them is really going to help provide us with a confidence boost. It would be great if we’re ranked among the top eight at the end of the regular season, because that guarantees we’ll have a home game in the state playoffs and that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Pendleton (9-1 CRC, 20-4) took the early edge, getting a run in the top of the first inning to go up 1-0. Pendleton senior hurler Marissa Jones, who tossed a three-hitter, kept the Eagles off balance for a majority of the contest, while pitching a shutout through four innings as the Bucks continued leading 1-0 going into the fifth.

HRV bats came alive as senior Amanda McCafferty (1-for-3) ripped a grounder up the middle for a leadoff single. Senior Hannah Williams (1-for-3) followed by smashing a long fly ball that rolled all the way to the 200-foot centerfield fence for a double. Two batters later, sophomore Brianna Weekly’s (1-for-2) RBI single drove in Williams, knotting it 1-1 after five innings.

PHS responded by adding a run in the sixth for the 2-1 edge. HRV junior centerfielder Sydney McHale caught two long fly balls for key defensive putouts of batters to prevent any further scoring in the inning.

Pendleton went down in order in the seventh as HRV pitcher Kayla Byers had a strikeout and shortstop McCafferty combined with first baseman Williams for putouts to help give the Eagles one final chance in the bottom of the inning.

Eagle sophomore catcher Kelsey Wells nearly tied the score with a deep hit that appeared to be headed over the centerfield fence. In what was undoubtedly the play of the game for the Buckaroos, outfielder Shea Lindsey backpedaled towards the fence and made the catch. The final two batters were unable to reach base as Jones proved to be nearly unhittable to the Eagles in all but one inning.

“I thought the ball was going to go over the fence,” said Keller. “If she (Lindsey) doesn’t make the play, then Wells would’ve been in good scoring position and then we would just go from there.

She made a pretty spectacular catch.”

The Eagles played their last road game Tuesday at Hermiston (6-4 CRC, 13-11), with results unavailable at press time. The team’s final regular season contest is Friday at home at 4:30 p.m. versus The Dalles Wahtonka Eagle Indians (2-8, 11-12). Unless the Eagles drop out of the top eight of the rankings, which is an unlikely scenario, then they’ll host an OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires first round state playoff game May 22.

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