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Heppner's Baily Bennett
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


HEPPNER — Fifteen years into the Heppner softball program’s existence, the Mustangs won their first state championship. Seven months later, the first Mustang signed a letter of intent for a major scholarship to play collegiately.

Thursday at the Heppner High library, pitcher Baily Bennett signed her letter to join the Treasure Valley Community College softball team for the 2014 season. Following graduation this spring, the Heppner senior will enroll at TVCC’s Ontario campus.

Bennett led the Mustangs to the Class 2A/1A state softball title last June when her team knocked off Glendale 4-2 at Oregon State University’s Softball Complex in Corvallis. Bennett pitched a complete game in the win to finish the season with a 23-4 record, 193 strikeouts and a 0.44 ERA over 174 innings pitched.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


1. Behind a pitcher, batter and coach recognized by Class 5A coaches as the best at their level, the Pendleton Buckaroos softball team rolled to its first state softball championship in June.

The Bucks, who finished 23-7 and outscored their five postseason opponents 40-3, beat Silverton 6-1 at the Oregon State Softball Complex in Corvallis on June 2. It was the school’s first state title since the boys’ basketball team won one in 1939.


 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PILOT ROCK — In Little League softball, where teams are as likely to score on a wild pitch as they are off the bat of a hitter, an accurate pitcher can make all the difference. For the Pendleton 9/10-year-old all-stars Wednesday, that difference maker was Katie Bradt.

Bradt lived on the corners of the strike zone against Milton-Freewater in the championship game of the District 3 Tournament in Pilot Rock, striking out 13 batters and guiding Pendleton to a 12-1 victory. She finished the game with a three-hitter and didn’t allow a run until the final inning.

Bradt’s precision pitching started early, but not after the big game rattled her nerves momentarily. She plunked the first batter she faced in the game. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, Bradt took a deep breath.


 
 
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Milton-Freewater's Amie Coffman scores. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ Mazzolini
East Oregonian

PILOT ROCK — The game plan against Pilot Rock for the Milton-Freewater 9/10-year-old softball all-stars might as well have been leave bats parked on shoulders Tuesday.

The innings in which the Little Leaguers did their most damage against the hosts from Pilot Rock came through patience at the plate. Milton Freewater scored all but one of its runs in a pair of walk-heavy innings as the team advanced to the championship game of the District 3 tournament with a 16-2 victory.

Milton-Freewater is one game away from a trip to Enterprise for the state tournament, but they’ll need to get past Pendleton’s 9- and 10-year-olds today at 2 p.m. To do that the offense will need to help itself, Milton-Freewater manager L.G. Bullock said.                


 
 
By AJ Mazzolini
East Oregonian

PILOT ROCK — Sporadic storming drove the Pendleton 9/10-year-old all-stars off the softball field twice during their game with Grant County at the District 3 Tournament in Pilot Rock on Tuesday. Just as the girls would get into a groove it seemed, the clouds would unleash their furry sending players scrambling for the dugouts and fans for their umbrellas.

“Yes, it was very tough to keep the girls focused in there,” Pendleton manager Kelsey Garton said. “You get a lightning strike or they hear thunder and it’s a half hour delay. With 9- and 10-year-old little girls in the dugout for half hour, me and the other coaches were wanting to be back out on the field real fast.”

 
 
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By AJ Mazzolini
East Oregonian

PILOT ROCK — “There you go, there you go. Keep messing with them,” manager Butch Wilson instructed his base runner, Tehya Ostrom as she edged down the third base line toward home following a first-inning pitch.

Baker catcher Nicole Parsons pump faked the ball back to third, convincing Ostrom to retreat to the base. On the next pitch, nothing would stop her as the Pilot Rock runner dashed home on a wild pitch.

“It pumps us up and gets us going, intimidating the other team,” Ostrom said of the high-risk, higher-reward base running tactics her Little League Majors softball all-star team employs.


 
 
By AJ Mazzolini
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — Pendleton residents know the Round-Up Indian Village as the setting for a sea of teepees each September during the town’s historic rodeo. But in the spring of 1987 the expanse, nestled between the Round-Up grounds and the Umatilla River, played home to Pendleton High School’s first softball team.

Home plate was no more than a chalk circle scribbled in the dirt. A shaky backstop was the only section of fence surrounding the field as the outfield continued beyond any girls’ bat power. The team played in T-shirts and shorts without real uniforms. Coach Terry Prouse would stitch on numbers before every game, having to remove them because the shirts were shared with the same-season track program.

“But at that time we didn’t really care,” said Prouse, who helped establish the team after her hire as a physical education teacher in Pendleton in 1986. “We were playing. We got to be part of a team.”

 
 
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Heppner pitcher Baily Bennett (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

HEPPNER — The payoffs are obvious now — a 0.44 season-long ERA and Heppner’s first state softball championship — but some of the legwork to get there had Baily Bennett a little skeptical.

In the offseason, following a Special District 5 Pitcher of the Year sophomore season, Bennett felt like she needed to up her pitching game. While attending softball pitching clinics, the Mustang tried out several off-the-beaten-path tricks for improvement — the old wives’ remedy equivalent for hurling a softball.

She threw pitches while standing on one leg and others while blindfolded.

“It was all really difficult, just hard to know what I even needed to do,” said Bennett, who finished her junior year at Heppner this week.


 
 
Player of the Year

Baily Bennett (Jr., Heppner) — SD 5 Player of the Year, 0.44 ERA in 174 innings, 193 strikeouts, 23-4 season record, pitched all but two of Mustangs’ total innings, .180 average against, eight shutouts Batting: .413 average, .541 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 37 RBIs, nine doubles, 31 hits, 35 runs

 
 
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The Bucks celebrate their first state softball title. (Photos by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

CORVALLIS — Pendleton’s Kristen Crawford came two outs from a no-hitter and the Spencer sisters provided her with all the run backing she needed. Those powers combined were more than enough to guarantee the outcome at Oregon State University’s Softball Complex: Pendleton’s first softball state title.

Silverton couldn’t manage to get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the seventh inning of the Class 5A State Championship on Saturday. By that time, the Bucks were too close to be denied the school’s first girls’ team championship, finishing the game off for a 6-1 victory.

“Well the dance team’s not the only one that has a state title now,” junior shortstop Kasidee Lemberger said jubilantly amidst a sea of fans and supporters after the game.