The La Grande Tigers softball team was three outs away from an eighth straight victory to start the 2019 season.
But four errors in the top of the seventh led the visiting Pendleton Buckaroos to score four runs to storm back and knock off La Grande, 4-3, Wednesday at Eastern Oregon University.
“(We played) six good innings of ball,” LHS Head Coach Woody Wright said. “We missed a few signs scattered throughout, but it’s seven innings of ball (you have to play). We didn’t complete the game, but it’s a great opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”
The loss also ended what was a 22-game winning streak for the Tigers dating back to last season.
Allie Brock hit a two-run home run for the Tigers that, through six innings, was the only offense generated by either team. Brock had also been solid in the pitcher’s circle, striking out nine batters through the first six innings and allowing just four hits.
“Allie pitched a great game. She did her job,” Wright said.
But the game took a turn in the seventh. Carissa Cooley singled to open the frame and wound up on third base after a pair of errors on the play. Maria Lillienthal followed with an infield single, and one out later DeLaney Duchek hit an RBI single to make it 2-1.
Elli Nirschl then reached on a bunt, which briefly left Lillienthal caught in a rundown between third and home. But an error allowed her to score the tying run, and a second error on the play resulted in both Duchek and Nirschl scoring for a 4-2 Pendleton lead, and marked the first time all season La Grande had trailed.
The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the seventh with a final attempt to pull even or steal back the win. Jaiden Hafer singled with one out and scored on a two-out single by Lexee Gomes. Pinch-hitter Felicity Houston walked later to keep the inning alive, but Pendleton collected the final out to secure the win.
“A loss is all in perspective,” Wright said. “It’s a great learning opportunity for us to grow, and it goes to show we have room for improvement, and we’ll take it at that.”
Brock concurred with her coach.
“What we take away from that is we need to be a little more controlled and finish a little stronger. Besides that I think the girls did great,” she said.
Brock and her counterpart from Pendleton, Sami Spriet, matched zeroes on the scoreboard after the first. The La Grande junior finished with 10 strikeouts in the loss, allowing four runs on seven hits. At times she was dominant, recording strikeouts of all three batters in the fifth inning on 10 pitches. She also worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the fourth to keep the score at 2-0.
Spriet, meanwhile, allowed three runs on seven hits, walked three batters and struck out three.
Both Wright and Brock said the team did struggle at times to adjust to the speed of Spriet’s pitching after seeing faster pitching at a tournament in Idaho last weekend.
“She was a little bit slower, and coming from such fast pitching to a little slower may have messed with the girls’ timing a little bit,” Brock said. “We still hit pretty good, just not timely.”
The Tigers’ first-inning offense came with two outs. Jayce Seavert, who went 2-for-3, doubled to left-centerfield, and Brock followed with a shot over the fence in left-center for the lead.
La Grande (7-1 overall) travels to Ontario Saturday to begin Greater Oregon League play.