Scary is not a word that would normally be equated with a 10-run, six-inning victory, especially one where the outcome was never really in doubt.
But there definitely were a couple frightening early moments for the top-seeded La Grande Tigers softball team as it began its bid for a second consecutive 4A state championship with a 12-2 win over the Mazama Vikings Wednesday at Sam Marcum Field in La Grande.
In the bottom of the first inning, LHS ace Allie Brock, standing in the on-deck circle, took a screaming line-drive foul ball off the left shoulder that ricocheted and knocked her helmet off.
“It was concerning from the get-go,” head coach Woody Wright said. “Allie took a heck of a shot, but Allie’s a warrior and stepped up and did her job. She’s got seams on her shoulder (from the ball) and everything.”
In the third inning, Lexee Gomes, attempting to score the game’s first run on a squeeze bunt, got caught in a rundown between third and home. The senior made an effort to score but took a high and hard tag to the face that briefly left her on the ground dazed.
Both athletes, though, stayed in the game.
“The kids are tough,” Wright said. “They’re competitors and they want to play.”
Shortly after, La Grande delivered a knockout blow to the Vikings, which senior Kara Gooderham said showed how the team was able to keep up the pace with Brock and Gomes dinged up.
“We have each other’s backs. When Lexee went down, we hit (the ball). We scored (seven) runs and had her back,” Gooderham said. “We always are there to pick each other up.”
One batter after Gomes’ play at the plate, Gooderham connected on a two-run single to get the Tigers on the board. Jacie Howton then hit a two-run single, Jaiden Hafer connected on a two-run home run to center field, and Kinzy Bowen roped an RBI double to give La Grande a 7-0 lead.
The margin was more than enough for Brock. The junior, who had struck out the game’s first three batters, battled to recover the form before the shot to the shoulder but still overpowered Mazama’s batters. Brock finished with 11 strikeouts, walked two, and allowed just two runs on two hits.
“I had to change my windup a little bit, but (the blow to my shoulder) affected my hitting mostly,” Brock said. “(My shoulder) loosened up a little bit (by) the middle (of the game).”
She also commented on how the team had her back.
“The offense really gave me relief, and I know that when they pick me up and hit it lets me relax and get to (doing) what I know how to do in the circle,” she said.
La Grande added a run in the fourth when Gooderham tripled and scored on a wild pitch, then threatened to end the game in the fifth when it scored three times. Gooderham was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run, and Jayce Seavert lined a two-run double off the center field fence, giving the Tigers an 11-2 edge.
Alaina Carson ended the game in the sixth with an RBI single.
La Grande’s offense, once it adjusted to the slower speed of Mazama pitcher Kennedy Lease, finished with 13 hits, all after the second inning.
Hafer said the team spent the early part of the week preparing for the slower pitching.
“We’ve been working on contact points, adjustments and (pitch) speed,” she said. “It’s just muscle memory. You just focus on getting on base and hitting the ball.”
Bowen turned in a perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate, and Carson, Gooderham and Grace Neer each had two hits.
“It helps us to keep our momentum up,” Hafer said of the team’s potency from top to bottom. “We know everybody can hit.”
The Tigers (21-1 overall) host Sweet Home in the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m. today.