CORVALLIS — After the Pendleton softball team came up short against West Albany in the Class 5A championship game last spring, coach Tim Cary and the girls knew they let one get away from them. The Bucks lost by just one run, 7-6, despite committing six errors in the field that led to five unearned runs.
When the Bucks got a second shot at a title on Saturday, it was obvious what piece of Pendleton’s game needed shoring up in order to have the title contest end differently.
“Errors. Equal. Runs,” said shortstop Kasidee Lemberger, who along with third baseman Darian Lindsey accounted for five infield putouts during Saturday’s championship game.
Immediately prior to the championship game, the girls ran through infield and outfield drills, something that Lemberger said they didn’t spend as much time on before the West Albany game. They got a little bit more practice in right before the first pitch that calmed some of the nerves that come with a championship game.
Just as importantly though, the nerves weren’t nearly as intense during a second consecutive trip to the Class 5A state finals. Playing in the team’s first ever championship game in 2011 came with a lot of unexpected pressure.
The team’s relaxed mindset was one of the major differences in this spring’s game, first baseman Jory Spencer said.
“Definitely less nerves,” she said. “We’ve been here before, we felt good about it and we felt good about our team. We knew how hard we worked to get here and that we really truly deserved it.
“Last year, it was just kind of like a surprise. We were all really tense.”
There were plenty of opportunities for bobbles in the field Saturday.
Pendleton pitcher Kristen Crawford threw to contact, causing 15 ground outs and five more infield pop outs.
The Buckaroo defense started the game with nine straight outs courtesy of their infielders, nary a misplayed ball in the bunch. Even when Silverton put runners on base toward the end of the game, Pendleton’s infielders rose to the occasion.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Lemberger corralled a sharply stung ball to get the force out at third base, clinching the game and the school’s first-ever state championship.
The Bucks had to be ready to move on every Crawford pitch, Cary added. The girls were well conditioned for a game like Saturday’s, though, having played behind Crawford all season in the same way.
Pendleton defenders are always on their toes, he said.
“We simply needed to let Kristen just go throw her great game, just like she did last year, but back her up better with great defense,” Cary said.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.