HRV softball whips the Bears in first round of state

A thrilling game to watch if you’re an Eagles fan, Wednesday evening’s matchup between Hood River Valley High School and the Bend Lava Bears appeared as though it was going to be a fierce battle in the do-or-die first round of the OSAA 5A state softball playoffs.

Bend struck early in the game — moved from Hood River to The Dalles to avoid wet weather — with two runs in the opening inning to set the tone. The determined HRV girls answered back, however, with a relentless offensive performance that tallied nine hits and eight runs and a fortress of a defense that kept the Bears scoreless the rest of the game.

The 8-2 win advanced the Eagles to the championship quarterfinals Friday evening at No. 3-ranked West Albany (results not available as of press time). The Bulldogs (24-4) won the 5A-2 Mid-Willamette Conference this season and advanced to play HRV with a 3-0 win over Willamette Wednesday evening.

Kayla Byers pitched a complete game for the Eagles Wednesday, tallying 14 strikeouts — a tie for her best game of the season with an 8-4 win HRV had against Bend earlier this year. Offensively, Kelsey Wells deserves player-of-the-game honors with three hits (a single, a double and a triple) and four RBI in her four times to the plate. Brianna Weekly, Byers and Made Vallejo all batted runners in as well.

After giving up two runs in the first off a walk, a double and a sacrifice fly, Wells got her 12th RBI of the season with a line-drive double to center field, driving in Sydney McHale, who reached second on a Bend error to get into scoring position.

Byers then struck out five in a row — three in the second and two in the third — to give the quickly frustrated Bears a taste of what they’d be served the rest of the game. The evening’s steady drizzle didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Byers’ accuracy, but for Bend’s pitching, the conditions and a molten HRV offense quickly took a toll.

A six-hit, three-run third inning, including a two-RBI double by Brianna Weekly, put HRV up 4-2, sparking the fire the girls carried the rest of the game and giving coach Eric Keller the opportunity — not once but twice — to break-out the windmill as third base coach.

A triple by Wells — her first of the season — with two outs in the fourth drove in Jessie Karr, a courtesy runner for Byers, who singled earlier in the inning to up the Eagles’ lead. In the fifth, another three-run inning for HRV, Bend worked itself into a corner by loading the bases as Byers came up to bat. Unwilling to give one of HRV’s top hitters her eighth homer of the season, Bend pitcher Alexix Hill-Gruenberg threw around the strike zone, walking Byers and bringing in Tabitha Merten, who reached base by a hit-by-pitch. Wells then singled with a line drive up the center to drive in McHale, who was also hit by a pitch earlier in the inning.

With time quickly running out, the Bears, down 8-2, got no mercy from Byers, who struck out five of six in the last two innings to log her 230th K of the season, secure the win and earn a place in the state quarterfinals.

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If HRV got an upset win Friday at West Albany, the next game will be May 28 against the winner of the Redmond vs. Sandy game, also held Friday.

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