By Jeremy McDonald
HOOD RIVER, Ore.– When the two teams met April 4 at the same location, Hood River Valley timed out Kaelynn Simmons for three sixth inning runs to hand Dallas one of their five losses this season.
And like their first meeting, this time with a trip to the Semi-Final round on the line Friday, it came down to a late run against the other’s defense to decide who will be advancing in Dallas’ 5-3 win.
Entering the game, the Dragons didn’t change much in their defensive approach to the strong bats of the Eagles, but it was the little hiccups that help in part to the three runs that Hood River Valley scored in the bottom half of the fifth inning to take a 3-2 lead into the sixth inning.
“Nothing really changed defensively for us, we went in loose, we played loose and when the time came to play tight, we played tight,” said Zoe Whitlow, who went 2-for-4 in the game. “We made small errors, I made I don’t know how many but we played our game and not let them in their heads.”
Whitlow would make the last out of the sixth inning in a 3-all ballgame, one of nine outs made by the field as Simmons struck out 12 batters in the victory. It was her second straight playoff game with double-digit strikeouts to go with her 12 against Putnam Monday afternoon in Dallas.
Kacey Jordan scored Whitlow to tie the game up at 3 in the top half of the sixth inning and the Dragon defense didn’t let a bases loaded situation in the bottom half of the inning negatively affect them going into the seventh.
Janessa Parnell and Emma Classen got on base to start the seventh inning; Parnell throw an error while Classen was intentionally walked having gone 2-for-3 on the day. The Eagles Lauren Decker forced Adrian Lee to ground-out for the second out, Ruby Earhart sacrifice bunt Parnell to second earlier in the inning with Simmons to bat.
Simmons, a dual threat with her bat as well as her pitching only had one hit all game, but her hit was the biggest one of the season for the Dragons. Her single to help her cause drove Parnell and Classen home to hand Dallas the lead and some extra insurance going back out for the bottom half of the inning.
“I was pretty nervous; it was the bottom of the seventh and last time to score. I just trust the work I put in and I knew it was going to work out,” said Simmons.
And they did. Classen made a quick read off the bat of Lizzie Weekly for the first out before Simmons surrendered a hit batter. The Senior Pitcher answered with two straight strikeouts to end the game, sending Dallas to Hillsboro Tuesday for a chance for a spot in the 5A State Title Game.
It’s the second time in the last three-years that the Dragons are in the Final Four, last time in 2017 in which they reached the Title game as they look to practice to prepare for an opportunity to get to Jane Sanders Stadium on June 1.
“If we keep practicing like we have been, keeping hitting the ball like we have been. Staying relaxed, we’ve been taking it one game at a time. So, it’s just this next one,” said Simmons.
Molly Rouston went 2-for-3 for the Eagles, her 2RBIs in the game helped give Hood River Valley the 3-2 lead in the fifth inning. Morgan Baker also had two hits for the Eagles. Decker struck out five Dragon batters in the loss.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald