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Coach Clark, praises the work her softball team has put in and the improvements they have been making.

STEELE HAUGEN - Irma Retano went 5-6 in a combined two games in a double header against Heppner.The Bulldogs softball team lost a pair of games against Heppner, Tuesday, April 17. Culver lost 12-2 in the first game and 15-5 in the second.

Nena Mendoza took the mound at Heppner on Tuesday, throwing 51 strikes and recording five strikeouts in the first game.

Culver's offense was lead by this spring's two-sport athlete, track star Irma Retano. Retano went 2-for-3 with a single, a triple, and recorded an RBI.

Maddison Miller went 1-for-3 with an RBI single to help the Bulldogs. Anyla Rico also recorded a hit for Culver.

The Bulldogs lost 12-2.

In the second game, Culver's hitting improved tremendously. They had 11 hits and scored five runs.

Retano did not miss a beat in the second game, going 3-for-3 with two singles and a double.

Mia Gamboa, Ryanne Scholl, and Mendoza all went 2-for-3. Gamboa hit a single and a double, while Mendoza hit two singles. Scholl also hit two singles and drove in two runs for RBIs.

The Bulldogs drove in two more runs, thanks to Janae Rhen and Emma Hayes. Rhen and Hayes each hit a single for an RBI.

Culver scored five runs, but in the end lost 15-5.

Coach Carly Clark had some encouraging words for the improving team.

"Each game we are improving as a team. We are putting more runs on the board, hitting the ball harder, and making difficult plays compared to last year, but we are struggling to bring everything together for a seven-inning game. During certain innings there are glimpses of greatness and consistency on the field and in the batter's box," she said.

"It comes down to fundamentals, which has proven to be our largest struggle," said Clark. "If we can bring each piece of the puzzle together, we can hang neck and neck with our opponents."

"In past seasons, we have faced the toughest competition at the 2A level and have faired well. We are hungry for the ball. We have to work as a team for each out during each inning during each game," she said.

Gamboa and Retano have brought speed, agility, and overall athleticism to

the outfield becoming a defensive duo on the field. "They are making tough catches in the field against the strongest and most aggressive batters in 2A," said Clark

Miller, Mendoza, and Rhen have also brought leadership to the team as designated team captains and defense. Offensively, all five players make up a pivotal piece of the batting order.

The Bulldogs have hit the final stretch of the season and league play. "With eight practices and a long layoff before our next scheduled game, adjustments will be made at the plate and in the field, "said Clark. 'During this time off, we will be returning to the fundamentals and working on small pieces of offense and defense, especially situational plays and bringing our hands to the ball to make contact.

Clark plans to put their fundamentals to the test with scrimmages.

"Our record currently does not depict the great strides forward we have made as both a team and individually on the field. We have to find the hunger for the ball and wins and mold it with our fundamentals in order to find a W."

The Bulldogs have struggled in the pitching circle since last season. "Starting pitcher Esperanza Mendoza has worked hard and put in endless hours to shape her pitch," she said.

"She is finding the middle of the plate and hitting her corners. Esperanza has impressed the coaching staff greatly by her work ethic and determination to improve and lead her team in the pitcher's circle. Today, in our first game vs. Heppner, Nena struck out five against a team full of powerhouse hitters.

Moving forward, Clark hopes the team will find consistency, confidence, and overall hunger for the ball. "If we can bring everything together, we will find a W. But, it will require we come together further as a team and play for seven innings," she said.

Aside from wins and lossed ,Clark wants to see the girls get aggressive and put more runs on the board, find the middle of the ball, and make plays.

"We have come so far in a short period of time! There is so much room to continue to build," said coach Clark.

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