The Centennial faithful would be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in disbelief late Friday evening, April 15, after Eagles softball appeared to be letting another nail-biter Mt. Hood League game slip through their mitts.
But despite a surging Sandy — which played energized late during a game that was shifted east due to rain and sloppy conditions at Centennial — the Eagles dug deep and found just enough of a spark to uplift a staunch defense.
Tied 6-6 after seven innings, thanks to a monster triple from Pioneer sophomore Kendall Wickizer for an RBI and later the tying run after a single from junior teammate Caylee Perkins with two outs and a pair of strikes, Centennial fought back in the extra frame.
The hero at the plate was freshman Alyssa Grover, who slammed a triple deep to bat in a pair of runners and build an 8-6 lead. That rally came staring down a pair of outs. Then Grover made an athletic play defensively at third base — snagging a backhand catch and whipping it to first base for the first out in the bottom of the inning.
The Pioneers had one final push left in them. Senior Abby Bradley had a nice double to bring home twin sister Peyton Bradley and cut into the lead. But on the subsequent at-bat, senior Ashley Allinger was tagged out at first by Eagles senior captain Alexis Henderson for the 8-7 win.
"It wasn't so fun because they kept fighting back," Baker said with a laugh. "But this was a good conference boost for us."
It was a balanced attack for Centennial. Grover went 4-5 with three RBIs and a run; sophomore Peyton Davis hit 3-5 with two RBIs and a run, and added 8 strikeouts as the pitcher; junior shortstop Jazzy Kappes, who made several athletic outs in the field, added two RBIs and a run; and juniors Riley Buckland and Nyla Lopez both scored a pair of runs.
For Sandy, Allinger went 4-5 with two RBIs, two runs and three steals; Peyton Bradley hit 3-5 with two runs and three steals; and pitcher Abby Bradley threw 7 strike outs and added both a run and RBI from the plate.
The Eagles (5-6, 1-1 League) will next play Barlow. Meanwhile Sandy (4-7, 1-2) slipped slightly down the standings.
"There is a lot more parity in our league this season, so anytime you can get a win is a positive," Baker said.
Just last week the Eagles lost a heartbreaker 4-3 on the road against Nelson, and there were moments in Sandy where Baker thought it would happen again.
"Momentum is a funny thing in softball, but once it stops you can't get anything going," he said.
Sandy appeared to have everything going in its favor early, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead. But just an inning later the Eagles answered with one of their patented flurries of runs — something Coach Baker joked he wished could be distilled to break out more consistently. Centennial took a 5-4 lead, before adding another run in the bottom of the third.
From there defense took center stage. Both sides clamped down, and the pitchers found their rhythm. Of note was Henderson at first base for Centennial, as she snagged several tricky outs thanks to her sure hands.
"I was glad to see that kind of defense because that is what we have been working on in practice," Baker said. "You can always improve defense to stay in games."
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