PENDLETON — The softball traveled less than eight feet up the first baseline, but that was enough to score Pendleton’s eighth run of the game.
Reeghan Lehnert’s infield single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Pendleton the 8-7 walkoff victory over Hood River Valley on Tuesday in Columbia River Conference play. The Bucks (10-5, 2-0 CRC) scored three runs in the final inning to take the game after having led in all but the final two innings.
With one out, Lehnert dug into the ever thickening mud in the batter’s box just looking to make contact.
“I just did a full-on swing and I ended up hitting it a little bit wrong and it went straight down,” said Lehnert, whose ball buried itself by spinning into the mud along the runny white chalk line.
Her second single of the game brought in Rayne Spencer from third base.
“I was just trying to run fast so I didn’t have to get down. It’s hard to slide in the mud because you stick a lot,” said Spencer, who had to hop Lehnert’s bat in the basepath on her way to the plate. She muddied her jersey with a dive around the tag from Eagles’ catcher Annie Veatch.
The late-game excitement must have come in with the rain, which started hammering the field in the sixth inning. In the top of that inning, Hood River got on the board for the first time, finally breaking through Pendleton pitcher Kristen Crawford’s magic.
Crawford was cruising up to that point with a 5-0 lead. After allowing the game’s first batter Erika Enriquez to reach base, the next 12 straight Eagles went down in order. But her gem quickly went out the window.
Crawford hit two batters in the five-run sixth inning for Hood River Valley and allowed three hits, one more than the previous five innings combined. The big blow came from right fielder Megan Winans who slugged a grand slam home run with two outs.
“We had a change in the dugout, a change to the thinking that we could win,” said Winans, who also hit a solo home run against Crawford in Pendleton’s 9-2 victory at home last Friday. “We had to turn on the energy right then and we used our momentum to just get more and more runs.”
The Buckaroos looked at the seventh inning in the same way. If Pendleton was going to win the game, they needed to do it then, coach Tim Cary said, and not just because the rain would likely have suspended play.
“We needed to do more than just tie it up in that last inning because I wasn’t feeling too good about how we were playing,” Cary said.
The Bucks have now won six games in a row while climbing into the top four in the state in the softball rankings for Class 5A.