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Bulldog catcher Courtney Howard loses the ball. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

HERMISTON — Butterflies aren’t all that rare for pitchers in rivalry games but Hermiston’s Paige Long said coming into Tuesday’s matchup with Pendleton, there were a few more than usual floating in her stomach. The junior pitcher had been hit around during a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Bucks on Saturday, so Long said she knew what to expect.

“I was always nervous pitching against Pendleton because they’re such good hitters,” Long said. “But this time I felt like I was in control.”

Long tossed a three-hitter in a 6-4 victory in Columbia River Conference play, though she looked a little shaky in the early innings. A pair of walks and a fielding error gave Pendleton the early 2-0 lead and it looked like the Bucks (17-7, 9-2 CRC) were primed to continue their hot streak.

But the rally killing issues that haunted the Dawgs (14-8, 7-4 CRC) in Pendleton over the weekend gave way to hitting sprees. Hermiston bashed nine hits in the first two innings, scoring all six of its runs in that span.

Being in front of the home crowd helped, shortstop Gracie Flyg said, but also seeing Pendleton’s Kristen Crawford throw for the third time in three games. The Buckaroo senior successfully navigated out of trouble in the previous meetings while picking up a pair of wins, but Hermiston caught on by the time she took the mound on Tuesday.

“I think once you see a pitcher you kind of have to learn and practice with her pitch at practice,” said Flyg, who picked up three hits in the game. “We knew she was going corners really well so we worked a lot of tee work on the inside and the outside. And out timing with her speed got a lot better because we’ve seen her twice already.”

While the Bulldog batters were breaking things open, Long started dealing in the circle.  She controlled the middle innings, putting down eight batters in a row at one point. And though her control wavered at times — five walks to five strikeouts — Pendleton couldn’t mount much of an offensive threat.

The two teams will meet for one more game as the regular season wraps up on Friday in Hermiston. The Bucks have already wrapped up the conference title but have a lot to lose with a stumble. Pendleton is still ranked first in Class 5A softball in RPI by the OSAA, meaning it’ll have the top seed come playoff time. If they team can stay there.

Hermiston is ranked sixth.

To have this weekend’s game go more like the first two in the series, Pendleton leadoff hitter Shea Lindsey said the Bucks need to start hot. More than that, though, they need to sustain the intensity.

“I think we came out slow, slower than what we usually do,” Lindsey said of Tuesday’s game. “We need to come out and play like we did before and we know we can.”

First pitch of that game is at 4:30 p.m.

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Contact AJ Mazzolini at (541) 966-0839.
 


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