The season hasn’t gotten off to the start the Eastern Oregon softball team was hoping for.
But Head Coach Erin Dickhausen believes there is still time for the Mountaineers to turn things around, and Saturday’s finale of their four-game series against Northwest (Wash.) is the kind of game that could be a spark.
Lauren Spencer turned in EOU’s best pitching performance of the season with a five-hit shutout and three Mountaineers hit home runs during the fifth inning of a 5-0 win Saturday during EOU’s home-opening series.
“Lauren was hitting her spots,” Dickhausen said. “Lauren’s changeup was on point in that game and you could just see the confidence she had in herself and in her defense. That allowed her to be comfortable and throw the ball the way she can. It’s nice to see us be able to put up that zero on the board.”
Northwest had won the previous three games — all Cascade Collegiate Conference matchups — 9-7, 9-5 and 8-5. But Eastern put together a complete effort in the series’ nonconference game.
“One thing we have been struggling at is getting our defense behind (our offense) and limiting the runs so we can win these games,” Dickhausen said. “We’re coming away with four, five, six-plus runs almost every single game. We just have to figure out a way to get it shored up in the circle and shored up on defense.”
Spencer did just that Saturday, locating her pitches and navigating the Eagles’ lineup to toss EOU’s first shutout of the season. She walked five batters and struck out four, and said a key in the win for the squad was energy.
“As a team we feed off each other, so it’s easier when everyone else is having fun and we’re in it together,” she said. “You can feel each other’s energy, feed off of it and it gets you hyped.”
The Mountaineers gave Spencer all the offense she needed in the fifth with three big swings: A two-run home run by Rayne Spencer broke a scoreless tie. Shevan DeFreitas followed two batters later with a solo home run and Brandi Bowling capped the barrage with a two-run shot.
“Hits are contagious,” Bowling said. “It only takes one. As soon as that one person hits or gets on (base), that allows us to have a rally and just keep going from there.”
Bowling, who caught Lauren Spencer’s shutout, agreed with Dickhausen that the pitcher was beaming with confidence.
“She had no doubt in the world that she could throw (any) pitch,” Bowling said. “That’s something you want to have from your pitchers.”
The Mountaineers struggled, though, to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard in the first three contests, each of which turned into high-scoring affairs.
Northwest 9, EOU 7
In Friday’s opener, the Eagles scored the game’s first six runs, highlighted by a solo home run from Nicola Fish in the third inning.
Madison Barr’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the third got Eastern on the board, and Jordan Henley’s solo blast was part of a two-run fourth to bring the Mountaineers within 7-3.
The score reached 9-3 before EOU made a final push. Jordan Shaw’s RBI single capped a three-run fifth to make it 9-6, and Haley Ebner hit an RBI single in the sixth to make it a two-run game.
Rayne Spencer, DeFreitas and Ebner all had two hits for the Mountaineers. Jessica Lambert pitched only 2/3 of an inning, allowing four runs to take the loss.
Northwest 9, EOU 5
Friday’s second game, which was completed Saturday morning after being suspended due to darkness, saw the Mountaineers build an early lead
before the Eagles rallied.
Rayne Spencer’s solo shot put EOU on the board in the first, and RBI singles by Ebner and Henley and an RBI groundout by Hannah Rothwell gave Eastern a 4-1 lead. Northwest rallied to pull even before Rothwell hit a solo home run in the third inning.
But the Eagles again tied the score on a home run by Alexis Contreras in the fourth, and both Samantha Parisio and Fish hit two-run singles in the fifth to put the Eagles ahead.
Barr had three hits for EOU. Amanda Smith pitched 5-2/3 innings and struck out nine batters, but allowed nine runs — eight earned — on 11 hits with five walks.
Northwest 8, EOU 5
The teams jockeyed back and forth in the third game, which was the final CCC contest of the weekend. Sarah Bonner’s RBI single and Bowling’s sacrifice fly make it 2-1 EOU in the second. The Eagles responded with a four-run third inning finished off by a Carly Tighe RBI single, but Henley’s RBI double and Rothwell’s run-scoring single pulled Eastern within 5-4. Barr later lined a home run out to left to keep EOU within 6-5, but the Mountaineers got no closer.
Barr, Henley and Rothwell each had two hits to spark the EOU offense. Smith pitched into the seventh, allowing eight runs — six earned — on 10 hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
Dickhausen is hoping the win in the finale will serve as a momentum boost and can keep the team’s confidence high as it heads into the back half of CCC play.
“If we have (confidence) we’re a really good team,” she said. “And just them understanding how talented we actually are is a big deal. It’s not just having that confidence in ourselves, but in the rest of our teammates on the field. It’s definitely not too late to turn things around.”
EOU (5-21 overall, 2-10 CCC) looks to begin that turnaround Friday when it travels to Montana to face Carroll.
“We just need to play like we did today,” Lauren Spencer said Saturday.