Gladstone endures seventh-inning heartbreak in loss to Sweet Home
The Gladstone Gladiators were one strike away from closing the door on Sweet Home and moving onto the second round of the OSAA Class 4A softball playoffs.
Then the softball gods smiled on the visiting Huskies.
Sweet Home's Allison Miner drove in the tying run with a two-out single in the seventh inning and then scored the go-ahead run on a Gladstone error, lifting the Huskies to a 5-4 victory in Wednesday's playoff opener at Gladstone High School.
In the home half of the seventh, the Gladiators had the bases loaded with one out when Savannah Tunon hit a sharp grounder to Sweet Home second baseman Sunhee Bitter, who tagged out the runner going from first to second and then threw to first baseman Maddie Harris to complete the game-ending double play.
"We had the lead, and then to lose it ... I'm just at a loss for words," Gladstone senior Sabrina Ward said. "We went in know it was going to be a tough game, and now we're realizing after it's over that it was even tougher than we thought."
Sweet Home trailed 4-1 before rallying with a run in the fourth inning, another in the fifth, and two in the seventh, lifting the Huskies (19-7) to advance to Friday's quarterfinals against top-ranked La Grande (21-1).
"It almost felt like there was a switch and we flipped it," Miner said of the come-from-behind win. "Everybody started getting on the fence as we rallied and this time we actually pulled through and finished."
Bitter, Sweet Home's senior second baseman, led off the Huskies' seventh inning with a bunt single and then went to second on Graci Zanona's sacrifice bunt.
Ashtyn Walker popped out to Gladstone pitcher Aubrey Jayne for the second out of the inning, bringing Miner to the plate with the tying run at second base.
Miner, a junior, said she flashed back to her freshman season when she faced a similar situation in play-in game against Mazama and struck out for the final out of the game.
"So, when I picked up the bat, I was like, 'I'm not making an out,'" Miner said. "I wasn't going to swing at pitches I didn't like. you just have to wait until you find one you like and try to drive."
Miner turned on a 3-2 pitch and lined it over the head of Gladstone shortstop Madison Brady and into left field, scoring Bitter with the tying run.
"The pitch was middle-in," Miner said. "Those are my favorite pitches to hit and I was able to put a good swing on it."
After Savannah Hutchins walked, putting runners at first and second, Gladstone had a chance to get out of the inning when Marissa Kurtz grounded sharply to Brady at shortstop. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, Brady's throw handcuffed backup first baseman Jordyn Prusso and the end result was an error that allowed Miner to score and give the Huskies a 5-4 lead.
After Gladstone's Dessie Alvarado beat out an infield single to lead off the Gladiators' seventh, Brady reached safely on an error, Carmen Collins popped out a bunt attempt, and Marrin McLeod walked to load the bases with one out.
Tunon, the junior right fielder, then swung at the first pitch she saw and grounded it to Bitter, touching off the game-ending double play.
"It was a tough way to lose, but that's the way this game works," Gladstone coach Emily Smith said. "Just when wen thought we had it in the bag, Sweet Home came up with a big hit and I have to give them props for the execution on that play at the end.
"As I told the girls, we graduated our whole infield on a team that did really well last season, and I'm just so proud of the people who stepped up and filled the spots. They played with heart, they played with passion, and I'm proud of them all."
Sweet Home took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Walker looped a one-out single into shallow left field, stole second, and scored when Miner hitting a sinking liner that glanced off Tunon's glove in right.
Gladstone answered in the home half of the first when Ward, the two-time Tri-Valley Conference player of the year, led off with a single, went to second onAlvarado's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Brady's single to right to make it 1-1.
In the third inning, the Gladiators sent seven batters to the play and score three runs on three hits, a walk a scarifice fly, and one Sweet Home error to take a 4-1 lead.