By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– For the first time since 2012, the Cascade Cougars are preparing for a State Title Game. Their 5-3 gritty win came way from strong defense and a late-game 2RBI double from Emma Hilfiker in the sixth inning that had help separate the two squads back on Tuesday.
“I was smiling when it came off my bat,” Hilfiker.said. “Honestly I was scared when I had two strikes, two outs and bases loaded. I knew we needed those runs, we’ve had trouble the whole game with the people we’ve had on base to score.
“But when I got the hit, I was just excited that I had scored those two runs that put us ahead.”
Hannah Walliman pointed towards it back on Friday after their Estacada win to set up this past Tuesday’s game with La Grande that this senior class, that includes Hilfiker, that they didn’t want to be done yet and here they were on Thursday. Getting ready to play in everyone’s dream that the start of the season:
The last one. The State Championship.
And it’s a rematch from their first game of the season against Marist. Two errors led to runs, one in the first and another in the seventh, that second error also help set-up the Spartans third run of the game in that final frame as Malia Williams’ notorious rise-ball got to them offensively.
Coach Marty Jeppsen pointed to his squad at the start of practice, coming off of Wednesday’s more relaxed practice after the win over the Tigers, told them that they’ll need to come out more aggressively this time around against Williams and her defense at Jane Sanders Stadium Saturday afternoon. Knowing too that Williams’ rise ball may catch them a few times in the upcoming game, but is confident that his batters will be ready this time around.
“We just can’t watch pitches. She’s going to throw strikes and we need to be aggressive and attack the first pitch if it’s a good one because if she gets ahead of you, you’re in trouble,” Jeppsen said. “She’s going to hit you with the rise ball and it’s very tempting, no one has been able to lay off it so it’ll be pretty naive for us to think we’re going to be discipline enough to do it. I just think we just need to be super aggressive from the very first pitch.
“If it’s a good pitch, we got good hitters and they need to hit.”
The Cougars were only able to get one-hit in the season-opener against Marist, a Abby Jeppsen lead-off single in the fourth inning on the March 17 meeting.
“It was our first game, a couple of our girls had barely had one or two practices under their belts. But I think we can come out really strongly, we’ve grown a lot this season. So I think it’s doing good,” said Hilfiker.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald