Wednesday, May 11, 2011/lk
At the beginning of the season the Hood River Valley softball team was supposed to lose games like this.
A good pitcher on the mound, lots of base runners stranded, and the other team figuring out Kayla Byers' pitches. But the Eagles didn't fold.
The Eagles made a fifth-inning RBI single by Hallie Curtis stand up with some stout defense to take three of four from Hermiston with a 1-0 victory, and take sole possession of first place in the Columbia River Conference heading into the final series of the season.
Byers struck out only one Hermiston hitter, but the Bulldogs could not get any traction against the HRV defense.
The Eagles got some spectacular defense by third baseman Annie Veatch throughout the afternoon, and a strong throw by a ranging Hallie Curtis in the seventh to end the game.
The Bulldogs had a runner on second after an error on Curtis with one out in the inning, and Mykel Liebe hit a ball deep in the hole at short, but Curtis moved over, got set and made a strong throw to first to beat a hustling Liebe by an eyelash at first.
"I was just thinking I've got to get her or I'm going to be really upset," the freshman shortstop said.
The win sends the Eagles into a crucial four-game series with The Dalles-Wahtonka with a leg up on the rest of the competition. The Eagles have a one-game lead on the Eagle-Indians and could finish as high as first or even in last depending on how the final week of the season shakes out.
Their coach never doubted they could hold their own in a tough league.
"I knew we could compete," HRV Eric Keller said. "I knew we had the talent to compete and win."
Both teams left numerous runners on base, with Hermiston leaving five stranded and HRV leaving 10.
However, while the HRV defense kept Hermiston off the board, the Eagles were able to get a run across in the fourth of Meagan Galloway-Cooley.
Erika Enriquez slapped a one-out single, went to second on a Katie Wood walk and then was driven home when Curtis knocked a ball to the fence.
"We just put girls on base and kept the pressure on," Keller said.
With five wins in league play the Eagles are in first place heading into its final four games against No. 1-ranked archrival The Dalles-Wahtonka.
Playing a top-ranked team doesn't faze the Eagles. They beat Pendleton twice when the Buckaroos were ranked No. 1.
"We are just playing really well as a team," Enriquez said.
Two wins against TDW would give the Eagles no worse than a tie for first place at the end of the regular season.
That was not what was expected of a team widely picked to finish fourth in the league this year, but Keller said the Eagles are not finished turning expectations on their head.
"We're going for a league championship," Keller said. "It's exciting to go for a title against your rival."