Catcher Cassie Wendt tags College of Idaho’s Rachel Strong at the plate during Tuesday’s doubleheader. The visiting Coyotes won both games, 4-2 and 2-0. Brad Mosher/The Observer
Errors cost Mounties in losses to CCC rival ’Yotes
by Brad Mosher/The Observer
Two small errors proved costly Tuesday, allowing the College of Idaho to sweep Eastern Oregon University with 4-2 and 2-0 victories in a Cascade Conference softball doubleheader at Peggy Anderson Field.
That was just what College of Idaho coach Al Mendiola expected when he arrived in La Grande Tuesday.
“Every time we play Eastern Oregon, they are tight ball games,” Mendiola said. “It is a rivalry between these two programs and you’re always going to get pitching duels.”
Coyote ace escapes
In the first game, a two-out error by the Mountaineers in the top of the seventh inning allowed the visiting Coyotes to score twice to avoid a 2-0 loss to the Mounties.
Instead, the College of Idaho tied the game, then won it with a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning by Page Gabiola.
Stephanie Maestretti had given the Mounties a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-run homer, breaking up a pitching duel between College of Idaho ace Nickayla Skinner and Alex Hillmick of Eastern Oregon.
The two pitchers had a shutout battle brewing until Maestretti’s hit cleared the left field fence, putting the Mountaineers on the scoreboard first. “I didn’t care — as long as it went over the fence by at least that much,” the designated hitter said to a teammate in the dugout.
Skinner (17-7) finished the game with 12 strikeouts, while giving up six hits and two walks.
For Hillmick, the Mountaineers’ loss dropped her record to 5-8 this season. She had two strikeouts, 10 walks and gave up six hits.
According to Mendiola, it was a matter of playing until the final out of every inning.
“I’ve told my team all year long if you have a third of an out, you have a chance. With two outs (in the seventh inning) we put the ball in play. Fortunately for us, there was an error on (EOU’s) part and we score two,” the College of Idaho coach said.
“Things can change on just one pitch.”
Coyotes 2, Mounties 0
In the second game, the visiting Coyotes broke open a scoreless duel between Eastern Oregon’s Kayla Anderson and College of Idaho’s Cortni Pena with two runs in the top of the sixth inning.
That was enough to get the victory as Pena held the Mounties to just two hits, while striking out five.
Anderson struck out six and allowed just four hits through 5-1/3 innnings. Tailor Snow relieved Anderson, giving up two hits in the final 1-2/3 innings.
In the top of the sixth, Molly Mills made it to first on a throwing error, then moved to third when Hannah Johnson doubled with no outs. Ashley Van Horne doubled to score the two Coyote baserunners.
Hillmick and Gracie Flyg had two singles for the Mounties in the loss.
Mendiola praised the Eastern Oregon pitchers who picked up the loss Tuesday. “Their pitchers were great today. We got one big hit that went into the outfield and scored two big runs. That was the difference in the game,” he said.
The sweep kept the visiting Coyotes in the thick of the battle for a playoff berth, improving to 13-11 with four conference games left. “We are battling for that fourth spot,” he said.
The Mountaineers will be hosting Concordia University Friday and Northwest University Saturday.
Close twice over
It was another close loss for Eastern Oregon coach Aaron Jackson to watch.
It was very close to an EOU win in the first game, with EOU holding a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning.
“We gave up two hits and a walk (loading the bases) and got ourselves in a jam. Then we came up with a great home-to-first double play,” Jackson said. “We played a good game. We had a chance.”
According to Jackson, the win was an example of excellent baserunning by the visiting Coyotes. “They were aggressive. It was great, heads-up baserunning.
“It was that sort of day. One play hurt us in the first game. One pitch hurt us in the second game,” Jackson said. “It’s what you expect with a rivalry game. It is always tough. I thought maybe we would split again and we definitely had a chance.
“We have to get our offense going and put more runs on the board,” he added.
The first game was a tough one to lose, especially against the College of Idaho’s best pitcher – Skinner. “She’s always moving the ball around and makes you swing at pitches she wants you to swing at,” he said. “It’s tough to score runs (against Skinner). I knew Alex was going to be just as tough. I figured one run would probably win the game and it ended up being an extra-innings game.
“You expect that from two pitchers like that.” Jackson said.
The EOU coach was pleased to see the team’s big blast come from Maestretti. “She has been struggling at the plate lately. Early on, she was really hitting the ball well. She showed some glimpses today of what she did earlier. Hopefully, that is a sign of what’s to come later this week.”