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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/21/14

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MILTON-FREEWATER — This time around, the Wallowa Valley Major softball girls slammed the door, and kept it shut tight.

Wallowa won the District 3 Tournament in dominating fashion, beating Pendleton 6-1.

The 11- to 12-year-old girls went through the tournament undefeated. Their closest call came in an earlier game against Pendleton. After Wallowa built up a big lead, Pendleton rallied to make the game close. Wallowa ended up squeaking it out 15-14.

There would be no rallies in the championship game, however. Wallowa got a big lead, and this time, never gave Pendleton any hope.

"It was a whole lot different," said coach Angie Neil. She said the first win over Pendleton was big because, despite Pendleton's late rally, the game gave the Wallowa girls the confidence they could beat that team from a bigger community with a deeper talent pool to draw from.

The girls were fired up for the Pendleton re-match, said Neil, as they were given a ride to the game by the Milton-Freewater Fire Department.

"They wanted to show (Pendleton) the real Wallowa Valley team. They weren't intimidated," said Neil. "We couldn't have asked them to play a better game."

Neil said this is Wallowa Valley's first Majors district softball title in recent memory. The girls will now move on to the state tournament beginning Saturday in Medford.

The girls beat Pendleton in classic style — with pitching, defense and timely hitting. Pitcher Andrea Schaefer allowed just six base runners and struck out eight. She only allowed two balls into the outfield all game.

Two big hits gave Wallowa Valley most of its runs. Heather Bruce hit a two-run single, and Nicke Parks hit a bases-loaded double to score three more runs.

Pendleton hit the ball hard once in the sixth inning as their girls tried to rally, but good defense kept them at bay. But, outfielder Ayesha Wortman made a good catch on a deep drive to take away an extra-base hit from Pendleton, Neil said.

After the final out, the girls exploded in celebration, setting off party poppers in the dugout.

"There was water to be thrown," said Neil.

The champion Wallowa Valley girls include Wortman, Schaefer, Parks, Bruce, Tonya Neil, Kayla Foster, Summer Despain, Ashley Graning, Brittany Duquette, Ashley Burgess, Paige Bailey and Anna Bird.

Wallowa went through the tournament undefeated. The girls beat Pilot Rock, Union County, Milton-Freewater and then Pendleton twice.

— Pierre LaBossire

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