There was little, if any, fanfare around the fact that the La Grande Tigers softball team had just clinched at least a share of the Greater Oregon League title for a third straight year.
Not when the team has much bigger expectations ahead in the coming weeks.
“Going back to Eugene and competing for a state championship is an expectation for this team. It’s not a goal, it’s an expectation,” head coach Woody Wright said.
The Baker Bulldogs were just the latest hurdle to clear in pursuit of that
The Tigers continued their dominance of the GOL Friday, using home runs from two of their freshmen to spark the offense in a 5-0 win in the opener of a doubleheader on senior day before waking up in a big way for a 22-0 win in the nightcap.
“For the upperclassmen it gets pretty emotional with senior day, and you expect that. That’s what’s nice about this team, the older kids struggled a little bit (in the opener), and the younger kids produced,” Wright said.
La Grande largely struggled to find a rhythm in the batter’s box in the first game, save for Kinzy Bowen and Grace Neer. Bowen hit a solo shot in the third inning for a 2-0 lead, and Neer doubled the margin to 4-0 with a two-run home run in the fourth.
“It was good to start them off and get the rally going,” Neer said. “Everybody was a little bit nervous (because of senior day).”
“All our hits were going straight to people, too,” Bowen added.
Senior Kara Gooderham added a pair of sacrifice flies for LHS, which had just seven hits, though many of the outs were on balls hit right to a Baker defender.
The Tigers, though, could afford to have an off game at the plate, as Allie Brock added another dominant effort in the pitcher’s circle. The junior struck out Baker’s first 10 batters — including a nine-pitch ‘immaculate’ inning in the third — and took a perfect game into the six inning.
“Allie’s pitches were working great. It’s a nice day, and Allie’s a competitor,” Wright said of the Tigers’ ace. “She’s going to step up and try to do her best.”
Brock finished with 18 strikeouts and allowed just one hit.
“It’s crazy,” Bowen said. “Other pitchers that we face are not like that, and just for Allie to go and do that is really cool.”
The bats woke up in a big way in the second game. La Grande pounded out four home runs — one each from Brock, Alaina Carson, Jayce Seavert, and Sophie Bell — and didn’t let up, using an 11-run third inning as part of the scoring frenzy.
Seavert, who finished 3-for-3 with six RBIs, hit a three-run shot in the first for a quick 3-0 lead three batters in. Brock connected in the second on a two-run home run after both Gooderham and Seavert drove in runs with doubles, and Carson lifted out a two-run dinger to start the scoring in the third. The inning, which saw La Grande score in almost every conceivable manner — a squeeze bunt, an error, two RBI singles, a fielder’s choice and two bases-loaded walks were among the ways the Tigers forced home runs — ended with a Seavert RBI double for a 19-0 lead.
Bell, who had five RBIs, hit a three-run homer in the fourth to polish off the scoring.
Carson and Gooderham both added three RBIs, and three pitchers combined to toss the Tigers’ 11th shutout of the season, eight of which have come against overpowered GOL competition.
La Grande (18-1 overall, 10-0 GOL) finishes league play Saturday at McLoughlin.