In a matchup between two of the state’s top-ranked softball squads, Hood River Valley High’s Erika Enriquez hit a clutch game-winning RBI double to help lead the Eagles to an exciting 5-3 come-from-behind win Tuesday at Gladstone High School.
Senior hurler Kayla Byers had a strong performance in the pitching circle as well, tossing a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts, and catcher Kelsey Wells smashed her first home run of the season to help lead the Eagles to victory.
“It felt good to come out here and get a big win on the road,” said Byers. “Kelsey and I had some good offseason workouts, which really helped me a lot. Being so familiar with each other and knowing what we want to throw is very important.”
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After playing Gladstone on the road Tuesday, the HRVHS softball team hosted Summit Thursday. The Eagles showed no mercy in the 11-0 win, which improved their record to 6-2. The team’s losses came during the North Medford Spring Break Tournament – a 10-8 loss vs. Marist and a 1-0 loss vs. South Salem.
Hood River (5-2), ranked 5A No. 3, took a 1-0 fourth inning advantage on Kainalu Bailey’s (2-for-4, two singles) RBI line drive single, driving home Kelsey Wells (2-for-4, HR, single, two RBI), who earlier had a leadoff single. Gladstone (6-1), ranked 4A No. 4, had outscored its previous six opponents by a 62-3 margin and was seeking to win its seventh straight to remain unbeaten.
The Gladiators, aided by two Eagle fielding errors, scored three runs on a two-out rally to go ahead 3-1 in the fourth inning and remained in front following a scoreless fifth. The Eagles responded to the challenge in the sixth inning as Annie Veatch (1-for-4) singled and then scored on a two-run homer by Wells over the 200-foot left field fence, knotting it 3-3.
“I was in a little bit of a slump, so it feels nice to regain my confidence level and I was glad that I hit one over the fence,” said Wells.
Both teams went down one, two, three in the seventh frame, sending the contest into extra innings. The Eagles, guided by coach Eric Keller, demonstrated their tough and resilient attitude to pull out the win.
“This was our first game ever here and it was sure nice to come out to the place I went to school at and get a win,” said Keller, 33, a Gladstone High graduate. “In somewhat of challenging circumstances, the girls showed what a strong team they really are.”
Following a scoreless eighth, the Eagles took control by displaying a potent offensive attack as they got four of their 10 total hits in a ninth-inning rally. Bailey’s leadoff single was followed by JoJo Karr’s single that helped provided HRV with an ideal scoring opportunity. Two batters later, Enriquez powered a fly ball deep to left field, driving in Karr for a 4-3 Eagle lead. Sydney McHale followed with a sharply hit line drive to center field, scoring Enriquez for a 5-3 Eagle advantage.
The Eagles displayed solid defense to hang onto the victory in the bottom of the ninth. Byers, who threw an effective combination of curveballs, dropballs, riseballs and changeups to keep opposing batters off balance, struck out the first two Gladiators. Left fielder Enriquez then made the key defensive play of the game in catching a solidly hit fly ball for the final put-out.
“We’re just taking things one game at a time,” said Keller. “We have goals that we’re working toward and they’re game-by-game goals. As long as we’re improving and solidifying defensively and showing offensive firepower, then that’s what success means to us. We’re focusing on getting better in every game. The girls came out with high expectations today, they executed well and they hit the ball very well. Kayla ... did a good job of putting us in position to pull out the win.”