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LA GRANDE’S MADISON ELLIOTT had a two-run double in the Lady Tigers’ Game 2 loss to McLoughlin Saturday. CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
Stranded runners and “the big inning.”
That’s what’s plagued the La Grande softball team this season. And it cost the Lady Tigers a pair of wins again on Saturday.
LHS fell to McLoughlin 7-1, 5-4 in a pair of Greater Oregon League contests, dropping La Grande to 1-7 in the league.
“It’s just the little things,” coach Kevin Kohr said. “It‘s a lack of focus at times. But we need to execute the simple, routine plays.”
The Pioneers got to starting pitcher Kelly Walker early in Game 1.
Brianna Crewse got McLoughlin on the board in the second inning when she roped a pitch to left field that brought home Kalyn Odman. An RBI double by Haley Freske stretched the lead to 2-0, and the Pioneers added two more runs on Walker before she was replaced by Emily Lawrence.
Lawrence was able to stop the bleeding in the inning and got out of a bases loaded jam.
The Lady Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the second when Brandy Blackman drove home Walker to make it a 4-1 ballgame.
But that would be all the runs LHS could muster off of Mac-Hi’s Kaitlin Erm in this one.
“We didn’t have the run support today (Saturday),” Kohr said.
McLoughlin didn’t have trouble scoring, though, especially Crewse.
The junior led off the third inning with a home run, then added a two-run shot in the fourth inning to cap the scoring for the Pioneers and seal the win.
Blackman was the only La Grande player to finish Game 1 with multiple hits, finishing with two. Crewse finished three for four.
McLoughlin had another big second inning in Game 2, taking advantage of LHS errors to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
After Cheyenne Kessler and Odman reached base to start the inning, Kessler came home to score on a hit by Crewse.
Then came perhaps the biggest mistake of the day for the Lady Tigers.
A Karli Cortez ground ball was overthrown at first base, allowing Odman, Kessler and Cortez to all come around to score and stretch the lead to 4-0.
“When you’re going one way and that ball is thrown away from you, it’s going to get by. That was tough,” Kohr said of the error at first.
But La Grande settled down after that, particularly Walker, who was able to work out of trouble in the third and fifth innings.
“Kelly came back after getting hit hard (in Game 1). Jenny (Tracy) played a great game behind the dish for us,” Kohr added.
The Lady Tigers cut away at the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Auslin McDaniel-Perrin led the inning off with a walk. She eventually scored on a hit by Tracy that was misread by the right fielder.
Tracy came home on an RBI single by Denise Comfort to make it 4-2. But the Lady Tigers stranded a pair of runners at the corners to end the inning.
McLoughlin added to its lead in the sixth when Cortez came home to score on a bunt by Heather Carter that resulted in an error by La Grande, and the Pioneers led 5-2.
LHS didn’t go away, though, and made a game of it in the seventh.
Madison Elliott hit a two-run double that brought home Tracy and Comfort to make it 5-4. That forced McLoughlin coach Nicole Christian to sub starting pitcher Crewse out in favor of Erm.
That proved to be a wise move, as Erm was able to get Walker to flyout before striking out Blackman to end the game with the tying run 60 feet away.
“Again, they (McLoughlin’s coaches) told me that we should have won that game. It’s hard because this is such a good group of girls,” Kohr said.
Walker struck out four in the loss, while Crewse struck out eight while picking up the win. Comfort and Elliott both had a pair of hits.
La Grande has now lost four straight and will play host to Fruitland Wednesday starting at 1 p.m. The Lady Tigers will honor its seniors that day as well.
LHS has four more GOL games remaining this season.