Young, but talented, HRV softball eyes return to 5A playoffs

Hannah McNerney winds up during Tuesday’s game against Barlow. McNerney, who is a sophomore, is one of the many underclassmen on the HRV softball varsity roster this season who will look to make big plays for the Eagles.

Photo by Ben Mitchell
Hannah McNerney winds up during Tuesday’s game against Barlow. McNerney, who is a sophomore, is one of the many underclassmen on the HRV softball varsity roster this season who will look to make big plays for the Eagles.

The HRV varsity softball team may have an extremely young roster this season, but what they lack in age they’ll make up for in talent.

The Eagles have only one senior on the team this year (shortstop Madé Vallejo) and seven of the 15 players on the varsity roster are freshman. Five of the players are sophomores and only five players are returning from last year’s varsity squad.

However, some of the most talented players on last year’s roster were freshmen, and will return this season as older and wiser sophomores. Kaylin Winans and Hannah McNerney split the majority of time on the mound for HRV last year as first-years and McNerney started for HRV in the team’s season debut against Barlow (see more info below). Catcher Zoe Munn, who had one of the most productive bats of the season last year for HRV, will be called on to continue leading HRV’s offense in 2016.

Sixth-year coach Eric Keller said that with so much youth on the team, “we have to work on creating a strong base of fundamentals” if the team is to find success this year.

HRV narrowly missed a berth in the OSAA 5A 16-team state championship bracket last season after falling to St. Helens in a play-in game. The year prior, HRV made it all the way to the semifinals. Though Keller said that no specific team goals had been established this season, he said that it was his “personal goal” that the team make a return to the tournament in 2016.

The Eagles will look to improve their lot in the Columbia River Conference this season after barely squeezing into the final play-in spot in the conference last year. Once again, Pendleton is favored as the team to beat for the conference title, according to Keller.

“They have been a strong performer and have established themselves as the team to reach for,” he noted.

The team took advantage of somewhat cooperative weather this week, playing three games in as many days, all of which were home (the team was originally supposed to play at Gresham Monday, but that got moved to Thursday and the location changed to Hood River).

HRV 5, Barlow 4

The Eagles used the sizable lead they had built over the first three innings of Tuesday’s game against 6A Barlow to withstand a Bruins’ rally late in the game to get the win in their season opener.

After going up 4-0 in the first three innings, Barlow responded with two runs in the fourth to HRV’s one, and then another two in the fifth inning to make it a one-run game. Barlow nearly tied the game in the top of the seventh when a Barlow runner attempted to steal home, but Munn stuffed the runner at the plate to help secure the win.

Vallejo and Makena Zeller had the hot bats for HRV, going 2-for-4 (singles) and 2-for-3 (single, double), respectively. Vallejo scored twice, and McNerney, Zeller, and Katie Perkins had a run apiece. Zeller and Munn led in RBI with two each.

On the mound, McNerney pitched all seven innings and was awarded the win. She struck out six batters and walked one. She gave up five hits and had two earned runs.

“I was excited at how we came out with our offense,” Keller said. “It gave us confidence as a young team. We need to learn from our mental and physical errors, defensively.”

Sandy 3, HRV 1

The next day, HRV hosted Sandy, and though the Eagles had a good day defensively, they couldn’t produce enough offense to get past the Pioneers.

Sandy scored a run in the second inning and never looked back, adding the insurance run in the fifth. HRV’s lone run came in the bottom of the sixth, scored by frosh Lauren Decker who advanced from second base off a hard ground ball hit by Munn to left field that was good for a single.

Decker pitched the entire game for HRV, striking out three batters and walking none. She gave up eight hits and had two earned runs.

Gresham 5, HRV 4

Playing three games in three days would be tough for a team in any situation, but HRV had the added difficulty of playing a 6A team on Thursday when they faced off against Gresham in Hood River.

Though HRV played competitively, they lost to the Gophers, 5-4, in what was a back-and-forth game. Gresham got on the board in the top of the third and HRV answered in the bottom of the fourth, but Gresham responded with another run in the bottom of the fifth.

HRV got its first lead of the night in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a three-run double by Munn that sent Vallejo, Decker, and Grace Miller home. However, Gresham tied it up with a two-run sixth inning and then added the go-ahead in the seventh. HRV was unable to respond in the bottom of the same inning, giving the Gophers the win.

Munn was a perfect 3-for-3 (two doubles, single) at the plate and led the team with the three RBI and scored a run Thursday as well. Winans had the other RBI for the Eagles. On the mound, McNerney pitched seven innings during which she struck out six, gave up six hits, and had three earned runs.

HRV heads to Newport next week for a spring break tournament that will be held Monday and Tuesday. HRV won’t have another home game until March 30 when the team hosts La Salle at Westside Elementary at 4:30 p.m.

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