GRESHAM - The Sandy softball team fought tooth and nail vs. the Centennial Eagles on Monday, April 23, but clutch plays in the bottom of the sixth inning ultimately allowed Centennial to emerge victorious by a score of 2-1.
'These 1-0, 2-1 games don't give you a lot of breathing room,' Centennial coach Steve Baker said, 'but that's the kind of team we have. We're making strides and gaining confidence every week.'
Both pitchers - the Eagles' Kaitlin West and the Pioneers' Kayla Opperman - went the distance.
And for quite a long time - innings three through five, for example - it looked like their prowess on the mound would prevent any more runs from being scored for the remainder of the evening.
The scoring drought lessened in the sixth inning, though, as Sandy got on the board courtesy of Kyza White, who cruised into home plate as teammate Amanda Bolender hit an RBI single.
Bolender was tagged out in the process but the play was indicative of the active night she was having. Previously in the evening, Bolender had provided solid defensive play from her right fielder position, and she had also drawn a walk off West while at bat in the top of the second inning.
'She's been doing a pretty good job out in the outfield,' Sandy coach Laurie Smallwood said. 'She's been doing a lot better. I don't know how much outfield she's played - she's a very good catcher - but she's doing a lot better as far as keeping the ball in front of her and judging where the ball's going to go. Outfield is tough. If it hits the ground, it can go anywhere once it hits.'
Going into bottom of the sixth inning, things were knotted up 1-1.
That's when Centennial made its move.
With runners on first and third, Kayley Rice hit a bunt single that brought home Dusty Sanstrum for the winning run.
Sandy was left with a comeback opportunity at the top of the seventh inning, and for a brief moment, things looked positive as Opperman hit a single off West and got the Pioneers' hopes up.
But West retired Sandy's remaining three batters in the inning to help her Eagles fly off with the win. She finished the evening with 13 strikeouts.
'She's in a little bit of a groove right now,' coach Baker said of West.
The Pioneers, though not entirely down on themselves, were a bit contemplative afterwards.
'It was a low energy game,' Sandy catcher Samantha Beem said, indicating that it probably just wasn't Sandy's day.