BEAVERTON, Ore.– They don’t know how to quit.
Their game against Washington Illusion was all but as easy for their third game of the day of the tournament at the Sunset Sports Complex.
Their defense was there, but so was Illusion’s as hits and runs were rare early on as the game had to go the international tiebreaker after the seventh inning.
The heat was beating down on them as both teams were tied after the first overtime inning as the Illusion tying run came in with two outs with the final out of the inning coming on the next at-bat.
It was a physical game as both squads played their second or third game of the day, Oregon having to play a third game to start the day as a ‘play-in’ game almost as they fought through fatigue. It was emotional and mental game as players constantly had to be on their toes knowing there’s a base-runner always on base.
“It was so mentally, physically-draining. I don’t think I’ve ever played a softball game that long since I’ve been alive to be honest,” laughed Zoe Whitlow, who was battling through a sore leg after a taking a nasty slide in the seventh inning of the game. “We battled back, which is what I’m really happy about. We started off about the same, the more we’ve got into it, the harder we fought.
“So it was good to see that we’ve got this fight, so if we ever get into this situation like that again we know that we can come back from it.”
Both teams got their stops when they needed as Sweet Home’s Savannah Hutchins bolted in the ball to Huskies teammate Gracie Zanona for not just the inning-saving out, but the game-saving out at home to complete the 8-2 double play in the ninth inning to push the game into the tenth inning tied at four.
“I think we all wanted it, I think we all were eager and never gave up. We’re all competitors, we never want to lose and we all give it our all and I think that’s what helped us today,” said Zanona.
The Herricanes finally put a comfortable two-run cushion on Washington with RBI Singles from Paris Sandvig and Sydney Nash to create a 6-4 lead only to have the Illusion turn back-to-back two-out RBI doubles to tie the game back up before Sydney Maurer turned a groundball into a out to Stayton teammate Alysha Sims.
After a quick talk by their coach, Oregon picked up their bats and went back to work.
And this time around, they came to life.
Maurer doubled to bring Whitlow home from second base as the game was still in the International Tiebreaker in the top of the 11th inning. Zanona singled putting her and Maurer at the corners with no outs.
Hutchins and Bailey Hartsook hit RBI singles with Hutchins being a two-run RBI and Hartsook being a solo RBI single to make it 10-6 entering the bottom half of the inning.
Emily Cole, one of Central’s pitchers and entering her sophomore year with the Panthers, found herself in her eleventh inning of work in this game alone to go with her six innings earlier in the day against Fire Fastpitch. But the Central pitcher was still going strong getting the first two outs of the inning looking for a quick 1, 2, 3 inning and call it a day.
Fatigue was on her face like it was for the rest of her teammates, but she was confident that no matter how this inning finished and if they must bat again in the 12th, they got her back.
“I don’t know, I was kind of nervous at some of the pitches because it was like ‘oh, if I get this’ because their a good hitting team. But my team backed me up very well so they got hits,” said Cole during those last few innings.
Cole got a 0-2 count on her third batter of the inning before letting one get the best of her as it resulted in a two-run Home Run to get the game to within two with that weird feeling that the Illusion could tie this thing up again.
But before that got too far, Zanona called time and calmed Cole down.
“So when I walked out to Emily and everybody I said, ‘hey we still got a two-run cushion, just get this last out. We can do it’,” said Zanona as they broke the huddle with two outs still on the board.
And they did do it with a fly-out to Maurer to end the game 10-8 in favor of the Oregon. Cole, who threw 120 pitches in Saturday afternoon’s game, let out a cheer and had a giant grin on her face as she went to the dugout with her teammates.
“It was so nice, I was so glad that we kept it there and we never gave up,” said Cole, who threw a grand total of 212 pitches with nine strikeouts over 17 innings in the circle. “I’m just glad we pulled it the win and worked together as a team.”
It’s not over for Oregon though, they’re back to the Sunset Sports Complex Sunday morning at 10am for their semi-final game versus New Thunder 16A with a chance to go to the Tournament championship Sunday afternoon. Lose, they’ll play at noon for a chance to get to the Title game in the double-elimination tournament.
Following Saturday’s slugfest finale, this game serves as a motivator across the board for the guaranteed two-games they got Sunday.
“It fuels our fire for tomorrow,” said Whitlow. “We’ll come back tomorrow better, learning from this game too. So it fuels it more.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald