PENDLETON — With a pair of wins over the hotly pursuing Hermiston Bulldogs, the Pendleton softball team guaranteed no one will catch them in the regular season standings. A doubleheader sweep clinched the Columbia River Conference title for the Buckaroos, the OSAA’s top ranked Class 5A team based on RPI.
It’s a major triumph for the Bucks (17-6, 9-1 CRC) who started the year 0-3, but Saturday’s wins were just as important to the girls in the dugout as they were to all their sports fan classmates back at school, shortstop Kasidee Lemberger said.
The Bucks did that behind matching complete games by Kristen Crawford, victories of 6-3 and 5-3. Pendleton broke Hermiston’s seven-game winning streak and pushed its own streak to six games.
In Game 1, the Bucks put together a big rally in the fourth inning, moving out to a 6-1 lead. Sisters at the top of the order Shea and Darian Lindsey each tripled and scored as the Bucks knocked Hermiston (13-8, 6-4 CRC) starter Megann Galloway-Cooley out of the game.
Hermiston inched a little closer, picking up two runs in the top of the sixth inning, but couldn’t get to Crawford more.
The Bucks scored in bunches in the night cap as well. The Lindsey sisters led off the contest by getting on base and both scored in the inning. Pendleton did its real damage in the third, by compiling a five-hit frame that included three, run-scoring doubles.
Hermiston batters looked at those rallies with longing on Saturday. When the Dawgs came to the plate, they collected plenty of hits — 18 total in the doubleheader — but they had a tendency to avoid clustering together.
“I think we were hitting, it’s just a matter of being clutch,” said Hermiston’s Melina Rodriguez. “We couldn’t string a lot of hits like Pendleton could. We would get a lot of girls on base but we couldn’t get girls to hit them in.”
Rodriguez led a charge against a fading Crawford late in Game 2 as the Dawgs scored all three of their runs in the final two innings. Rodriguez homered in the sixth as the Bulldogs accrued six of their 11 hits from that point forward.
And it could have been much worse for Pendleton. Hermiston left the bases loaded in both innings. Crawford avoided serious trouble in the seventh while guarding a two-run lead by striking out a batter and inducing an easy ground out to end the game.
“I mean throwing 14 innings was pretty tiring so obviously you get a little worn down by the few last innings,” Crawford said.
The teams will finish off the 2012 campaign with two more head-to-head meetings next week. Hermiston will host games on Tuesday and Friday.
“No one wants to lose at home,” Rodriguez said. “They took their home games and now we’ll take ours.”