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Timberwolves win a wild one

Softball: Tualatin comes out on top in an eight-inning back-and-forth battle with Tigard
by: DAN BROOD, WAY TO GO — Tualatin senior Suzanna Espinoza (20) is congratulated by her teammates after she drove in the winning run in the Wolves’ eight-inning win over Tigard.

TUALATIN - Wild.

Nerve-wracking. Thrilling. Plain old crazy.

Go ahead and pick any of those terms. Heck, pick all of them because there's no better way to describe Friday's softball game between rivals Tigard and Tualatin.

Tigard and Tualatin turned in a wild, back-and-forth battle with the Timberwolves finally emerging with a dramatic 5-4 victory in an eight-inning Pacific Conference clash played Friday at Tualatin High School.

'This is really big for us,' said Tualatin senior Suzanna Espinoza, who, in addition to being the winning pitcher, drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. 'We had a lot of fun out there today.'

Fun? Probably. Exciting? Definitely.

Tualatin, which trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, rallied to take a 4-3 lead going into the seventh frame, only to see the Tigers come back to tie the game and send the contest to extra innings. But, in the eighth inning, Espinoza singled in sophomore pinch runner Erin Doering to give the Wolves the dramatic one-run victory.

'It's huge,' Tualatin coach Dan Roisom said. 'To get a win like that against your cross-town rival is something. Every night will be a battle in this league. I'm just proud of the girls.'

Tigard, coming off a 3-0 win over defending Class 6A state champion Forest Grove on April 9, fell to 1-2 in league play at that point with the loss at Tualatin.

'We're strong throughout the line-up at every position,' said Tigard senior shortstop Heidi Pizer, who went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and three RBI in Friday's game. 'Right now we're struggling to put our hits together. But I'm sure it will come along.'

Tualatin, which bested Canby 1-0 on April 9, improved to 2-1 in league play at that point.

'This is really big,' said Tualatin senior Amelia Bywater, who belted a pair of doubles in the victory over Tigard. 'This will make us more confident.'

Tigard was the team likely feeling confident after it grabbed a quick 2-0 first-inning lead in Friday's game.

Tiger sophomore Katie Aden drew a walk to lead off the game. One out later, she moved to second on sophomore Chelsea Biglow's single to right. Pizer then singled to center, with both Aden and Biglow scoring on the play to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

The Tigers tacked on another run in the top of the fifth to push their lead to 3-0. Junior Krista McCord got things started in that inning with a one-out double to the fence in left field. Biglow then singled to center field, but McCord was thrown out at home plate while trying to score.

However, Tigard wouldn't be denied as Pizer followed with a double to left, driving in Biglow to give the Tigers a three-run lead.

Tualatin got on the scoreboard with a single run in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Gina Rawls reached second base on a Tigard error and then scored on a single by junior designated hitter Amanda Richmond, cutting the Tiger lead to 3-1.

The Wolves then got their bats going in a big way in the bottom of the sixth inning. They scored three runs in the inning thanks to four straight extra-base hits. Senior Janelle Cromie got the Tualatin hit parade started with a one-out double to center field. Bywater then doubled to right-center field, driving in Cromie to cut the lead to 3-2.

Tualatin sophomore Meghan Cichoke then tripled down the left-field line, plating Bywater to tie the game. Espinoza then doubled to right-center to drive in Cichoke, giving the Wolves their first lead of the game at 4-3. They took that one-run cushion to the seventh inning, where they hoped to wrap up the win.

But now it was Tigard's turn to rally. Aden walked with one out in the top of the seventh inning and she moved to second on a groundout by McCord. Biglow then came through with a single to right, with Aden scoring on the play to tie the game at 4-4.

Tigard didn't score again in the inning, and Tualatin didn't score in its half inning, sending the game to extra innings.

Tigard, with freshman Kelsey Kaelin hitting a double and with freshman Erin Nyberg and senior Lyndsey Bidwell both drawing walks, loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth. But Espinoza got out of the jam with by coaxing an inning-ending groundout.

Bywater doubled to right-center field to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Doering, pinch-running for Bywater, moved to third when Tigard committed an error on a sacrifice bunt by Cichoke. Espinoza then ripped her single to right-center field to driving in Doering for the victory.

'I was just happy to help out the team,' Espinoza said of her game-winning hit. 'I applied what we've been working on in practice to the game. It felt really good.'

Tualatin had 10 hits in the win. Richmond, Espinoza and Bywater each had a pair of hits while Cichoke, freshman Camille Kennedy, senior Jordan Skinner and Cromie added one hit apiece.

'We've been working real hard on stringing our hits together,' Bywater said.

Tigard had eighth hits in the contest. Biglow had three hits for the Tigers while junior Ashley Suter, McCord and Kaelin had one hit apiece.

'We're real young, but we're going to keep learning from experience,' Pizer said. 'We're definitely having fun. This is a good group of girls.'

Tualatin followed up the victory over Tigard by running to a 16-0 win over Newberg in a five-inning league game played Monday at Newberg.

Espinoza and freshman Mary Grace Bywater combined to pitch a no-hitter in the win. Espinoza struck out six batters in three innings of work. Bywater had three strikeouts in two innings.

Cromie had three hits, including a home run. Senior Emily Tietje had two hits, including a triple, and she drove in three runs.

Sophomore Ally McPherson scored three runs.

Tigard, on Monday, was edged 1-0 by Canby.