Hood River Valley High softball extended its winning streak to 10 with an 8-1 Columbia River Conference season finale victory over The Dalles-Wahtonka Eagle Indians Friday in The Dalles. The win secured the conference title for the Eagles (10-2 CRC, 20-5 overall), who finished their league schedule tied with the Pendleton Buckaroos (10-2, 19-6) to split the CRC title.
This is the first league title for fourth-year coach Eric Keller, and the Eagles haven’t won a league championship since 2006, when they claimed the Intermountain Conference title.
“I’m tremendously proud of these girls and it’s just an incredible accomplishment,” said Keller. “The girls set a goal and it sure feels nice to be league co-champions. It’s been fun all season; we’ve battled hard and struggled at times, but they’ve all responded well to help us achieve our goal.”
As expected, the Eagles had little trouble in gaining the upper hand against a struggling TDW (2-10, 8-17) squad. The Eagles built a 7-1 margin after six innings and extended it to 8-1 in the seventh on an RBI single by senior Annie Veatch (2-for-3, two singles, RBI).
“After working so hard the last four years, it has all paid off now and we’ve finally got our championship, so it feels just great,” said Veatch, who leads HRV in hitting with a total of 28 RBI. “We’re working hard in practice, we’re hitting the ball good and we’re coming together as team. We have to continue working hard and take things one day at a time and one game at a time.”
Eagle standout senior pitcher Kayla Byers again was instrumental in leading the team with another dominating performance in the pitching circle. Byers scattered four hits, walked two and hit one batter.
“It feels pretty darn good to be CRC champions,” said Byers, who batted 1-for-3, with a single and an RBI and has recorded an impressive total of 27 RBI for the year. “We’ve been practicing hard all year and we’ve been hitting the ball better than we have in previous seasons, so that has helped our team improve a lot. If we continue hitting well, I think we do fine in the playoffs and I believe we have a good chance to go all the way. I think we’ll be the toughest team to beat.”
The Eagles will host an OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires First Round state playoff game May 28 against an undetermined opponent. If HRV wins that contest, they’ll advance to play in the May 30 quarterfinals. The Class 5A finals will be held June 7 at Oregon State University’s softball complex.
Senior left fielder Erika Enriquez (1-for-4, single, RBI) also contributed well to the Eagle offense. The trio of Enriquez, Byers and Veatch are the only players that have competed on the varsity squad the last four years.
“I’m just ecstatic, because we’ve worked really hard and waited four years for this and now we’ve finally got a league title,” said Enriquez. “If we meet Sandy in the playoffs, I think we can beat them because we played them earlier this year and we almost won.”
The Eagles lost 5-4 to the No. 1 ranked Pioneers in April.