A successful season that produced an Intermountain Conference title and spawned hope for playoff success came to a disappointing end Wednesday for Bend High.
Willamette pitcher Alyssa Gayle struck out just two Bend batters, but the host Lava Bears struggled to find the holes in the Wolverines’ defense and fell 8-1 in the first round of the Class 5A softball state playoffs.
“We felt confident that we could put the bat on the ball,” Bend coach Wade Kinkade said. “And we did that today. We just didn’t get rewarded for it.”
Willamette, the No. 10 seed in the 16-team bracket, jumped to an early lead in the first inning against No. 7 seed Bend, generating three runs on two hits.
With a runner on first in the fourth inning, the Lava Bears’ Awbrie Elle Kinkade ripped an RBI double to close the margin to 3-1.
“We prepared for this pitcher,” said Lisa Sylvester, Bend’s senior catcher and the IMC player of the year. “We knew she was going to be fast. We put the ball in play, and they only got two strikeouts. They just came to play today. I mean, everyone comes to play, but they had the better game.”
IMC pitcher of the year Megan Berrigan and the Lava Bear defense managed to hold the Wolverines from Eugene in check until the fifth inning.
But that’s when Willamette broke it open, scoring one run on an error, another on a single, and three on a home run by Heidi Hall.
“We played great,” Wolverine coach Darren Hatefi said. “The offense was on top of everything right at the beginning. Great pitching and the defense support kept them off the bases, which really makes it so much easier. Then our bats were just awesome. First inning we got a nice cushion then just came alive in the (fifth).”
Willamette (16-8) advances to a quarterfinal game Friday at Hood River Valley.
In addition to Awbrie Elle Kinkade’s early double, the Lava Bears got singles from Kendall Kramer, Mariah Buckner, Alexis Hill-Gruenberg and Sylvester.
“I think we put the bat on the ball,” Wade Kinkade said, noting that it is rare for a team to strike out just two times all game and only score one run.
“But that’s the way it worked out today,” he said. “We did hit some balls hard too, just right at them.”
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