SOFTBALL: Greyhounds continue their strong early season play with two wins at the La Pine Invitational

When Jerry Mettee woke up Saturday morning in La Pine, the thermometer outside his window read 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Not exactly ideal softball weather.

But Mettee and his Lady Greyhounds dutifully suited up and braved the chilly weather, then whipped Toledo 9-2 to cap a strong showing at the La Pine Invitational, held last week at several high schools in and around Bend.

'I thought the girls showed great focus considering how cold it was,' Mettee said. 'It was the best we've played all season.'

Gaston (5-3) split its first two games of the tournament against Harrisburg and Valley Catholic on Thursday, then woke up Friday morning to six inches of freshly fallen snow. Friday's scheduled game against La Pine was called off for obvious reasons, but the snow had melted by Saturday morning even if temperatures hadn't climbed back above freezing.

'It was some weird weather, that's for sure,' Mettee said with a laugh. 'But the girls didn't let it affect them.'

Despite the one-day layoff and unseasonably cold weather, Gaston looked sharp against Toledo (1-2) on Saturday. The Lady Hounds scored three runs in the second inning and never trailed, tacking on three more in the third, two in the fifth and one in the sixth.

Freshman Becca Brown was 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, while senior Angela Lance was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Junior Katrina Rios pitched her best game of the season, striking out nine in seven innings of work.

Gaston opened the tournament with some offensive fireworks against Harrisburg (1-2). Sparked by back-to-back doubles from Faith Hawley and Ambree Richter, the Lady Hounds sent 13 batters to the plate in the first inning and finished the frame with a 7-0 lead.

'We came out aggressive,' Mettee said. 'But we lost our focus in the middle innings and let Harrisburg back into it.'

Gaston's lead would grow as large as 13-3 through three innings before Harrisburg clawed its way back into the game. The Lady Eagles scored three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth to cut Gaston's lead to 14-9, but the Hounds iced the win with two runs in the top of the seventh on a squeeze bunt by Rios and an RBI single by Brittany Steele.

Thursday's second game against reigning 3A state champion Valley Catholic (8-0) did not go quite as well, however. Gaston simply couldn't touch Valley Catholic starter Sami Picken, who struck out nine of the 15 batters she faced and finished with a perfect game through five innings.

'We played OK, but we just ran out of steam against a very good team,' Mettee said.

The Lady Hounds sit at 5-3 heading into the start of Northwest League play this week, and Mettee feels his team's tough early season schedule has prepared them for a run at a league title. Of the eight games Gaston has played, only one has been against a fellow 2A opponent and five of the opponents were state playoff teams in 2007.

'We deliberately put together a challenging pre-season schedule,' Mettee said. 'The goal is to improve by playing against quality competition.'

That theory will be put to the test as Gaston opens league play this week with three games against Portland Christian (0-4). Gaston hosted the Royals on Tuesday (results were not available at press time) and will travel to Portland for a doubleheader on Friday. Wedged in between will be a non-league game against Banks (0-7) on Wednesday.

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