After Wednesday’s 9-0 victory over Mountain View, The Dalles softball team is riding a nice little streak at the right time.
The stakes are raised even higher now, especially with Columbia River Conference action coming up this Friday.
There is a common theme brewing amongst some experts, fans and prognosticators, however – The Dalles will finish in last place.
Those thoughts will serve as fuel for the Riverhawk players, as they embark on this challenging journey, because this group will need to be united, motivated and play mistake-free softball to contend.
“To be successful in league, the most important thing is for all of us to have positive attitudes,” TD senior Kathryn Bradford said. “We also need to have the strongest defense we’ve ever had, like we’ve shown in these last few games, so if we continue that, I don’t see it as being a problem. Hitting will be important, too. We have been working more on our hitting, and I think with the hitting we have right now, it is definitely going to help us win games.”
Right now, Hood River Valley, Hermiston and Pendleton have a combined 29-4 record and all three are currently ranked in the top-7, led by No. 4-ranked and undefeated Hood River Valley (12-0 overall).
The Dalles is 7-5-1 and ranked at No. 14, but have done so with limited pitching depth, and a rash of injuries that has caused a re-shuffling of the batting order and defense.
Add in the fact that the Riverhawks have a new coach that is trying to right the ship for a program that ended last year with a 3-22 record and won two of 12 league contests.
“It is great to see so many positive changes from last year,” Bradford said. “We struggled a little bit, but I see a positive outcome for the rest of the year. I think we have been strong all season, but right now, we are showing what we can bring by beating teams that we have lost to in the past, so I think that is a positive thing to see. We are learning from our mistakes, building from them and fixing them and I think that is really cool to see. Altogether, we are just clicking really good and working well together and I am really excited for that with league coming up.”
In their 13 games, the Riverhawks have scored 101 runs, second-best in the CRC, behind Pendleton (105).
During its two-game winning streak, The Dalles pitcher Bailey LeBreton has allowed two unearned runs on eight hits with 15 strikeouts, as she followed up her complete-game effort against Canby last week, with seven innings of six-hit ball with 12 strikeouts and no walks versus Mountain View.
“Bailey is doing an awesome job on the mound,” TD coach Meghan Rowland said. “We have girls making awesome plays defensively and that is helping her out a lot too. It is keeping her head held high and it gives her confidence knowing that her teammates are backing her up. It is all working out for us from that standpoint.”
At Canby on April 6, TD totaled 10 hits, three of them doubles, and went 3 for 4 on stolen bases.
Wednesday, the Riverhawks posted six hits, were issued two walks, had two hit batters and went 8 for 8 on stolen bases.
Adding to those numbers, LeBreton and freshman catcher Maddie Troutt showed their power strokes with each swatting two-run home runs, LeBreton’s coming in the second and Troutt’s in the sixth, which capped the scoring.
Troutt went 2 for 4 with her homer, scored twice and drove in two runs; and LeBreton was 1 for 4 with a home run, a run scored and two RBIs.
Jodi Thomasian tacked on a hit in her four at-bats, stole a base, scored a run and drove in two, and Emma Smith went 1 for 4 with an RBI.
The 7-8-9 hitters, Emma Weir, Ella Salvatori and Jessika Nanez finished a combined 0 for 6, but reached safely four times, as Weir reached on an error, stole two bases and scored a run, Salvatori was hit by a pitch twice and scored, and Nanez walked, stole a base and scored a run.
“We are starting to set our batting order into form, where we can just get someone on and know that others are going to get on as well, so we can keep turning the lineup over,” Rowland said. “I feel like the girls are getting more used to their roles and what the expectations from them are offensively. They are progressing in their hitting and knowing their roles and executing when asked.”
While this is the last rodeo for the seniors, Bradford, Thomasian, Weir and Nanez, and Bradford is optimistic about the upward swing this team is on.
The all-state centerfielder added that the chemistry is great, the belief factor is high and the younger players are joining the fray with a drive and passion to achieve success.
“I am ready to finish strong and just have a great senior year and be able to tell everyone that my senior year was the best we have ever played,” Bradford said. “I believe that we will have a positive outcome in league and I know the other seniors here feel the same way. I am really excited about how we are playing right now and how strong of a team we are. We have some positives to build on and we are ready to show it in league.”
TD’s league-opening doubleheader is slated for 3 p.m. at 16th Street Ballpark versus the No. 4-ranked Pendleton Buckaroos (10-1).