On Thursday, the Bucks survived a Pioneers rally to finish their softball preseason with a narrow 4-3 home win.

Pendleton took an early 2-0 lead in the third inning, but their Mac-Hi visitors mounted a three-run fifth inning to grab a brief advantage. The Bucks managed two more runs to finish the game and reclaim the lead for good.

“Mac-Hi is a playoff team,” said Pendleton coach Tim Cary. “It was good for us to get that kind of competition this early on.”

The first two innings breezed by without a run as Bucks pitcher Kylie Parsons struck out four Pioneers to get their defense going. Parsons would strike out six and walk just three by the end of the game.

“You need to have great pitching to have a great team,” Cary said, “and Kylie came out and pitched an outstanding game.”

Bucks sophomore Maria Lillienthal led off the bottom of the third with a double on the first pitch, and senior Elli Nirschl’s sacrifice bunt sent her to third. Senior Kirah McGlothan drove her home with a double two at-bats later.

“The coaches were telling me to relax, and my team was there to support me,” Lillienthal said of the base hit that got her team’s offense started. “They just told me to take deep breaths, and trust my hands.”

McGlothan made it home on an error at first base to give Pendleton their 2-0 advantage.

But the Pioneers fought back with a game-changing fifth inning. Courtney Cain, Britney Wells, and Kayla Casillas all singled to load the bases with just one out. Senior Sydney Earls singled in the next at-bat to drive Cain home, and freshman Rikki Mark followed with an RBI of her own.

Casillas scored a run after Ally Marley was walked to put Mac-Hi out front, 3-2. Parsons struck out the next Pioneer batter, and Lillienthal snagged Ashlyn Marley’s pop fly to right field to put an end to the Pioneers’ comeback.

“Mac-Hi is a good hitting team,” Parsons said. “I pitched well today, but my defense really had my back. They kept me positive. You can’t hang your head too early in situations like that.”

The Bucks swiftly recovered the lead at the bottom of the fifth. McGlothan was hit by a pitch and driven in by junior Sami Spriet’s single, and senior Kila Soloman made it home after junior Carissa Cooley was walked with the bases loaded.

“We had a tough inning with some misplayed balls,” Cary said, “but we found a way to focus, recover, and get those last six outs to win the game.”

McGlothan was 1 for 3 at bat with two runs and an RBI, and Earls hit 2 for 3 with an RBI for the Pioneers.

The Bucks (7-3) make their Intermountain Conference debut on Saturday, April 13 with a doubleheader at Crook County. The Pioneers (7-3) start Greater Oregon League play this Saturday with two back-to-back home games against Baker/Powder Valley.

“It’s good to be challenged like this sooner rather than later in the season,” Lillienthal said. “Games like this really help us shape up for the league.”

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