DOWN TO THE WIRE

May 21, 2002 12:00 am
AT LAST: La Grande softball team celebrates after its 8-7 win in the 11th against Cascade in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Monday. La Grande plays Sherwood Wednesday in the second round of the playoffs. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).
AT LAST: La Grande softball team celebrates after its 8-7 win in the 11th against Cascade in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs Monday. La Grande plays Sherwood Wednesday in the second round of the playoffs. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

ISLAND CITY — The La Grande softball team advanced into the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs after holding off Cascade 8-7 in extra innings Monday.

La Grande plays at Sherwood Wednesday at 4 p.m.

A critical call occurred in the top of the 11th that went in La Grande's favor.

With the score knotted at 7-all, Cascade's Denise Vertz hit a shot deep to center and Kari Lowry ran home from third.

Cascade could have gone up 8-7 with one out, but someone from the sidelines said Lowry did not touch home.

Cascade coach Tim Ganfield approached the umpire and said Lowry's cleat marks were in the dirt on the side of the plate.

The umpire did not agree and called the second out. Ashlee Barnhart popped up to end the inning, shifting the momentum back to La Grande.

In the bottom of the 11th, La Grande's Erin Henjum hit the game-winner for an 8-7 score.

"I don't like how we won, but at this point (we'll) take it as it comes," La Grande coach Nicole Christian said.

The game went back and forth as both teams scored in bunches.

Heather Hampton smacked a shot to deep center driving in two runs in the bottom of the second.

Cascade came right back in the top of the third to tie it.

The game was far from over.

La Grande scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Chelsea Long started the spurt with a single to center. Pinch runner Kinsey Chadwick ran in the go-ahead run.

Another run came off Meghan Henderson's grounder. Megan Caldwell's two-run RBI double to left gave La Grande a 6-2 lead.

La Grande could not hold on and Cascade took advantage.

"Gotta work on keeping that lead and not getting them back in," Christian said.

Cascade loaded the bases in the top of the sixth and four quick singles tied the game for the second time.

"Proud of the girls," Ganfield said of the comeback. "They played well today."

Cascade threatened in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and one out.

But Henderson caught Chelsea Lally's bunt attempt and threw to third to tag out Vertz to end the inning.

The game went into extra innings as La Grande ended the bottom of the seventh with a strikeout and two grounders.

Cascade struck first in the top of the 10th. Sarah Mintzer's single scored Liz Smith from third giving Cascade a 7-6 lead.

With two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Lauren Sternfeld hit a shot up the middle sending in Amanda Marcum to tie the game for the third time.

Christian said the players stepped up and got the win, noting Sternfeld's and Hampton's performances.

The call in the 11th was the difference.

"Tough way to end, but someone has to, I guess," Ganfield said.

Cascade 002 004 000 10 — 7 15 1

La Grande 020 040 000 11 — 8 11 4

Music, Simar (6) and Heppner; Caldwell, McCoy (7) and Henderson.

Cascade hits — Heppner 2, Lally, Mintzer 5, Wheeler, Lowry 2, Vertz, Smith 3. SB — Lally.

La Grande hits — Marcum 2, Long, Sternfeld, Caldwell 2, Wallace, Henjum 2, Hampton 2, Lanman 2. 2B — Caldwell, Hampton. RBI — Caldwell 2, Hampton 2. SB — Marcum, Long, Henderson, Henjum, Chadwick.