For the second time in five years, Pilot Rock ends Gaston's softball season in the 2A state playoffs
Gaston's young softball team has a goal to become a perennial state playoff contender, and head coach Erik Lentz thinks his squad has the talent and drive to get there.
The Lady Greyhounds' first taste of postseason play didn't quite go as planned, however.
After winning a regular season Northwest League title, Gaston was given the No. 13 overall seed for the 16-team 2A/1A state softball playoffs, and the Lady Hounds endured a long and frustrating day last Wednesday that culminated with a 9-0 first-round loss to Pilot Rock.
'One of the frustrating things for our kids was that even though we won our league, the top three teams from our league got the bottom three seeds in the entire tournament, so the deck was kind of stacked against us,' Lentz said, referring to a new OSAA policy that re-seeds the state playoff bracket before the first round based on a statewide power ranking formula.
'If we had been seeded closer to where I thought we should have been seeded, I think we win a game. Instead we had to play the defending state champions in the first round, and that was a tall order.'
Pilot Rock (21-5) scored in each of the first four innings last Wednesday and led 9-0 when the game was called due to weather in the bottom of the fifth.
Gaston (14-6) didn't get its first baserunner until the fourth inning, then waited out an hour-long rain delay before officials eventually called the game rather than forcing the visiting Hounds to spend an extra day in nearby Pendleton.
'It was a long trip,' Lentz said of the five-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Pilot Rock. 'We did it all in one day, so we left at 8 a.m. and didn't get home until 1 a.m. It was kind of a weird way to end the season.'
Pilot Rock pitcher Kylee Jensen shut out Gaston over five innings to earn the win, sending the Rockets into the state quarterfinals.
'We would have had to be perfect to beat that team,' Lentz said of Pilot Rock. 'They're a very good team and that's a tough place to play.'
The Hounds kept alive a five-year streak of state playoff appearances and will also return nine players for next season.
'We had a really nice season,' Lentz said. 'I think this is going to be a good experience for the girls to build on.'