For a group of Barlow softball seniors, the highlight of the season was the team's only loss.
It was a nonleague showdown between two undefeated powerhouses as the Bruins went on the road April 30 to face Jesuit. And, it didn't go well for Barlow — they fell behind early and couldn't claw back into things, losing 5-1.
For many that would be the low point in a year filled with incredible performances. But, the Bruins said it showed how close the team is, because even in a loss they never turned on one another or got down. They used it as a learning experience and rallied together.
"Even though we lost, we never gave up," said Sammie Pemberton, senior shortstop. "It showed how strong we are mentally and that we will always compete."
"We got each other's backs no matter what," added Bergan Grant, senior catcher.
And that loss was an aberration for the Mt. Hood Conference leading Bruins.
Barlow softball has been lighting up the scoreboard this season, excelling in all facets of the game. The Bruins (8-0 league, 11-1 overall entering the week) have put up some gaudy numbers this season. They have shut out five teams — highlighted by a massive 23-0 win over rival Gresham. They beat Central Catholic, second in the league, 7-2, and downed third-place Clackamas 3-0.
"I'm blessed — most coaches don't have this kind of team," coach Rob Gehrke said. "This is my chance to coach them one last time."
The coach can't help but beam when speaking about his team, evident even through his mask. His squad is led by nine seniors, who not only bring leadership but a passion and joy for the game that is infectious. That energy has Gehrke saying this is the most fun he has had in eight years of coaching.
"There are so many great personalities and people on this team," he said. "To not have this team together last year makes this all the more special."
All of the seniors were hopeful this season would come, wanting one last year to compete alongside one another.
The team is strong in all aspects of the game. The pitching has been dominant, the defense solid, and the Bruins are batting over .500 as a team.
Pemberton is batting .643 with 15 runs, seven RBIs and a homerun; Grant is batting .467 with seven RBIs. On the mound, starting senior pitcher Natalie Harrop has an ERA of 1.29 and has struck out 49.
"When I pitch, I know its 9-on-1, not 1-on-1," said Harrop, referencing the support she has from the defense when she steps onto the mound.
Pemberton is planning to play ball at Southern Oregon University next season, and Harrop will be suiting up for Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin. Gehrke said all the seniors have the talent to play collegiately.
"Barlow softball is about the team — not any one individual," Gehrke said. "They all approach things professionally."
The Bruins are taking things one game at a time. The goal every season is to capture a league title, and normally the group would also be eyeing a deep run in state; not this year, and there won't be a state tournament. But, regardless of how it ends, Barlow softball is enjoying playing, win or lose.
"We are blessed to be back out on the field together," Pemberton said. "I just want to win and play — I didn't think we would have this."
Mt. Hood Conference standings
Entering Monday, May 10
Barlow — 8-0 league, 11-1 overall
Central Catholic — 8-1, 9-3
Clackamas — 6-3, 8-4
Sandy — 5-3, 6-5
Centennial — 2-6, 3-7
Gresham/David Douglas — 2-8, 3-9
Reynolds — 0-10, 1-11
Clackamas — 10-1 league, 11-1 overall
Barlow — 9-2, 9-3
Central Catholic — 8-2, 8-3
Sandy — 5-5, 6-5
Reynolds — 4-7, 4-7
Centennial — 2-6, 4-6
Gresham — 2-8, 2-9
David Douglas — 0-9, 1-10
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