PENDLETON — A Pendleton Buckaroo occupied all three bases in the bottom of the first inning with just one out. The Bucks used extreme patience to draw a pair of walks and were forcing Walla Walla (Wash.) pitcher Alyson Ambler to throw extra pitches.
But instead of scoring runs to answer Walla Walla’s one from the top half of the inning, Pendleton fouled out twice to end the threat.
They would never compose such a rally again Friday. Walla Walla (2-0) scored all the runs it would need in the top of that first inning to outlast Pendleton 1-0. The Bucks (2-4) stranded a full team’s worth of players on base in the loss.
“We were waiting for that clutch hit and that clutch hit just didn’t happen today,” Pendleton coach Tim Cary said.
Walla Walla’s Ambler labored through the first couple innings — including a 32-pitch first. The Bucks made her work in the first with leadoff batter Shea Lindsey seeing eight pitches and Evangelina Olivera taking 10. Both plate appearances yielded walks.
But after battling out of the jam, Ambler shut down the Bucks for a complete game victory.
“I had to find the umpire’s zone first,” Ambler said. “That’s always the key to every game, finding the zone and working with it. Once I found the zone then I started working the batters within it.”
Ambler read the home umpire’s strike zone perfectly and took advantage. Four of her 11 strikeouts came without a swinging challenge on outside pitches.
Pendleton’s Kristen Crawford matched Ambler’s gem inning for inning. The senior Buck threw 50 fewer pitches in the complete game loss. Crawford struck out four batters and induced a slew of ground ball outs in what Cary called her best game of the early season by far.
But one Crawford mistake led to the only run of the game. Walla Walla infielder Andrea Hamada got to first base the painful way, wearing a Crawford heater in the first inning. A pair of singles later and Hamada was home for the 1-0 lead.
TraeAnn Payne knocked Hamada home from second base with a liner to the right side that right fielder Reeghan Lehnert tossed to home. The throw pulled catcher Jory Spencer up the third base line and to avoid a collision, Hamada ran a wide arc around her.
The Buckaroo infielders all looked to the umpire, hoping the runner would be called out for straying from the base path. But the run stood.
“We were all kind of like, ‘Wow, did that just happen?’ ” Spencer said. “But you can’t change it so we had to do what we had to do to try and come back and we just couldn’t pull through (Friday).”
Crawford would allow just two more hits in the ensuing six innings.