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Tigers, Grizzlies beaten by darkness

Softball: The teams battle to a 1-1 tie in the 13-inning league softball opener
by: DAN BROOD, STRONG PERFORMANCE — Tigard senior Katie Alexander gave up just one run over 13 innings pitched.

McMINNVILLE - Thirteen innings.

One-hundred and eighty-one minutes.

Thirty-seven total strikeouts.

Two big-time, clutch pitching performances.

Many big defensive plays. Only two runs scored.

And, as it turned out, it was all for nothing.

But it still was a heck of a game.

The Tigard and McMinnville high school softball teams battled to a 1-1 deadlock in a Pacific Conference opener that was called, due to darkness, after 13 innings of play last Thursday at McMinnville High School.

'Oh my gosh,' Tigard coach Connie Jolley said after the 3-hour, 1-minute contest where neither team was able to emerge victorious. 'It was a great game by two great teams.'

Each team got strong pitching performances in the contest. For McMinnville, sophomore hurler Anna Bertrand gave up just three hits while striking out 27 and walking just two in her 13 innings of work.

For the Tigers, senior Katie Alexander, in 13 innings, scattered 10 hits while striking out 10 and walking one.

Alexander seemed to be especially tough when McMinnville had runners in scoring position.

'It was pretty intense, but I was really relaxed,' Alexander said. 'I didn't even know what inning it was. It was mental toughness, I guess. I was determined - it's personal for me against McMinnville. Last year, when we played them, I got hit on the hand by a pitch in the top of the seventh and it swelled up pretty bad.'

Tigard had trouble getting its bats going early against Bertrand. The Tigers went down in order in each of the first three innings.

But they finally got going in the top of the fourth.

Junior Heidi Pizer started things in the frame when she drew a two-out walk. Sophomore Ashley Suter then reached on a McMinnville fielding error, with Pizer moving to second on the play. Freshman Chelsea Biglow then singled to left, driving in Pizer to give Tigard a 1-0 lead.

The Grizzlies answered back in the fifth, getting an unearned run of their own.

Tigard committed back-to-back errors to start the inning, giving McMinnville runners on first and second with no out. The runners moved up on a groundout.

Bertrand then ripped a one-out single to center. Elaina Steber scored from third on the hit to tie the game. Grizzly pinch-runner Courtney Peebles also tried to score on the play, but she was gunned out at home by Tigard center fielder Alex Tucker, who threw a strike to catcher Meredith Masters, who tagged out Peebles.

'There was no thought to it - just muscle recollection,' Tucker said of the play. 'That felt pretty good.'

Masters, after tagging out Peebles, threw down to second to get Bertrand trapped in a rundown for the inning-ending third out.

Neither team was able to score in the ensuing eight innings of play.

Tigard threatened in the top of the 11th. Alexander drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Katie Aden advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Meredith. But Bertrand recorded back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the jam.

Biglow led off the 13th with a single to center. She advanced to second on a passed ball with no outs. But Bertrand was again up to the task as she struck out the next three Tigard batters.

McMinnville looked to have a prime scoring opportunity in the 11th. Bailee Niehaus led off the inning with a single to center. Pinch runner Cory Asher stole second and, one out later, she moved to third on a single to center by Angie Lingle. Asher didn't try to score on the play, thanks to another rifle throw to the plate by Tucker.

Alexander then got a pop out to Pizer at short for the second out of the inning.

The Tigard pitcher then got Jocelynn Robins to strike out looking on a change-up to end the threat.

The Grizzlies also had a base hit in each the 12th and 13th innings, but, both times, they left the runner stranded.

'Both defenses and both pitchers really came through,' Alexander said. 'It was definitely a fun game to play in. It was the best game for me pitching so far this year.'

'Katie was awesome,' Tucker said. 'It was a great game. That's how softball should be played.'

Biglow had two of the Tigers' three hits in the game. Senior Erica Hansen had the other Tigard hit.

McMinnville, which defeated top-ranked Jesuit 4-0 the day before facing the Tigers, remained at 9-2 on the season at that point with the suspended game. Tigard remained at 8-2.

'I think we definitely proved something today,' Alexander said. 'We showed we can play with anyone.'

The teams, after being rained out on Monday, were finally able to get their game in on Tuesday, with McMinnville coming out on top 3-0.

The Tigers were scheduled to play at Forest Grove on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.

Tigard will be back in action Friday when it hosts rival Tualatin in a Pacific Conference game starting at 5 p.m.

On Monday, the Tigers travel to Canby for a 5 p.m. contest.