PENDLETON — Determination radiated from the Pendleton softball team with each ensuing run as the score climbed higher and higher Thursday. As the game moved out of reach, the Milwaukie players just looked happy to be there, cheers and chants emanating from behind the chain link fence in the dugout.
The Bucks erupted for a 17-1 victory in the play-in round of the postseason at home, brushing off the Mustangs on their way into the first round of OSAA playoffs next week. Pendleton (19-7) will host another game in the Round of 16, and as the likely top seed, will draw the lowest ranked team remaining.
Pendleton smacked three triples in the game — two turning into four-base scores on Milwaukie (2-21) outfield miscues — and cracked 17 hits off the Northwest Oregon Conference’s last-place team.
Senior Courtney Schumacher-Sweek had her best game of the season, going 3 for 3 with a three-run home run in the fourth inning when the Bucks scored eight. Schumacher-Sweek knocked in six runs and credits a new approach at the plate. Thursday’s game was the test run for her new batting stance.
“It’s a new technique I’ve been using to get under the ball a lot,” she said. “I’m resting the bat on my shoulder now to help keep my hands up.”
Every Buckaroo got on base at least once with eight of the nine starters collecting hits. Seven errors by the Mustang defenders didn’t hurt the Bucks’ scoring spree, either. Milwaukie pitcher Nicole Bugliari was tagged with the loss, but only six of the 17 runs she allowed were earned.
Her counterpart Kristen Crawford shut down the weak hitting Mustangs by allowing only one hit in four innings. Against the Pendleton starter, softballs off the Mustang bats were corralled in the infield for all but one out.
Crawford got to watch the end of a Bucks’ game from the dugout for the first time since the preseason and was relieved by sophomore Hailey Kline in the fifth inning. Crawford has pitched all but 14 innings for Pendleton this season and every one since late March.
“I didn’t throw a lot of my pitches (Thursday) to save my arm and save up for the next four games and hopefully the championship game,” Crawford said.
Kline allowed one run in her debut but closed out the game in five innings after shortstop Kasidee Lemberger turned a double play with first baseman Jory Spencer for the final two outs.
“Kristen’s had to do it all but it was nice to get a big old lead and have Hailey come in and get a little playoff experience,” Pendleton coach Tim Cary said. “She did a nice job coming in and that first time is always the toughest.”
Seventeen runs tied a season high for Pendleton. The Bucks beat Class 6A Grant 17-1 at the Spring Break Challenge on March 27.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at ajmazzolini@eastoregonian or (541) 966-0839.