HERMISTON — Last year, the then-mostly freshman Hermiston softball squad was nervous when they took the diamond for the first time. The Bulldogs were up against a tough senior cast in Ridgeview and dropped the game 14-3.
This year, the now-seasoned Bulldogs’ team entered its season opener with new found confidence and were looking for revenge against the defending Intermountain Conference champions.
“Last year we went in nervous and the girls kind of took it personal this year like, ‘Wow that really happened,’ and this time they came out ready to fight,” head coach Kate Greenough said.
The 5-3 win over Ridgeview on Tuesday was thanks in part to the defensive efforts of Sydney Stefani and the pitching of the Almaguer sisters, senior Julissa and sophomore Janelle.
In the top of the sixth, Janelle Almaguer replaced Julissa Almaguer in the circle. Ridgeview scored all three of their runs in the top of the previous inning to take a 3-2 advantage but Hermiston’s offense brought in a pair of its own to retake the lead for good.
Julissa Almaguer hit an RBI double to left-center field to bring home Amanda Barron and when the next batter took the plate, the starting pitcher advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Kylie Green hit a sacrifice fly that allowed Julissa Almaguer to score and put the Bulldogs (1-0 overall) up 4-3.
In the middle of that tough fifth inning when the Ravens (0-1) made their comeback, Greenough had a simple yet inspiring message.
“Well I just told the kids that you can’t get comfortable and you have to play for each other,” she said. “As soon as you make it a personal testimony for one of your teammates they really rise to the occasion, and I think that was kind of that message where they realized they need to fight for each other and they could.”
And now, it was Janelle Almaguer’s turn to fight.
“I was really nervous but then everyone was pumping me up like, ‘You can do this, you can do this,’” she said. “So, then I was really excited to go in.”
In the final two innings, the righty’s nerves were almost undetectable. Janelle Almaguer allowed only three base hits and struck out two batters to close out the game.
It’s the kind of work Greenough wants to see their first time around.
“It’s great to come out and get the win,” she said. “The girls worked hard all seven innings. In this first game that’s kind of what you’re looking for, who is going to push, who is going to fight. We definitely had our share of mishaps but the kids rebounded well and just kept fighting throughout the whole thing.”
Hermiston opened the game with two quick runs in the first inning.
Stefani hit a line drive to center field that brought in Julissa Almaguer for her first trip around the bases and catcher Bailee Noland sent a pop up to the same spot that allowed Stefani to tag home.
For the insurance run in the sixth, Janelle Almaguer reached base on a fielders choice but as the Ravens’ offense was trying to stop another Bulldog from scoring, Almaguer reached third and eventually home on a wild pitch.
Hermiston will play again Friday at St. Helens. The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
R H E
RHS 000 020 0 — 2 10 1
HHS 200 021 0 — 5 7 3
RIDGEVIEW — N. Hill, A. Frost (5) — Lorena Vasquez
HERMISTON — Ju. Almaguer, Ja. Almague (5) — Bailee Noland
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.