SOFTBALL: Buckaroos keep their mojo

Pendleton’s Evangelina Olibera (14) waits for the ball as North Eugene’s Haydee Leighty (4) runs toward first base in the Bucks’ 7-0 win against the Highlanders on Wednesday in Pendleton.

PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos’ muddy celebration following their 7-0 playoff win over North Eugene on Wednesday may have seemed a bit out of place for a first-round game.

But nobody could blame the Bucks for feeling a sense of joy and relief after advancing to the quarterfinals with a 13-hit performance.

Pendleton (16-10)?was looking to not only prove they could get it done at the plate for two games in a row, but wanted to erase some of the bitter memories left from a first-round home exit from the playoffs a year ago.

“I know a lot of people haven’t really believed in us so we wanted to go out there and prove to not only everyone else but to ourselves that we could get it done,” said Bucks third baseman Jory Spencer.

Spencer was a big reason the Bucks did get it done, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Spencer hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning to put Pendleton up 3-0. It was her third of the season.

“I was in kind of a slump the past few games and we’ve done a lot of hitting practice lately because we knew we had to come out and score runs,”?said Spencer.

The Bucks pounded out 13 hits in a 5-0 win over Sherwood in the play-in round, but have struggled all season to find consistant production at the plate.

Coach Tim Cary said the team took two days in a row last week where they did nothing but hit in the batting cages, then took an extended hitting and fielding practice on the third day.

“We have been doing a whole lot more hitting and it’s just something that as a coaching staff we went, ‘You know what, it’s not the defense that’s losing our games, it’s certainly not the pitching. We’re not hitting the ball well enough,’ and as a head coach that’s my responsibility,” he said. “If we can’t score runs we can’t win games and I?think we’re starting to figure out how to score runs.”

The Bucks broke a scoreless tie in the second inning when Kristen Crawford batted in Spencer with a single to left field. Spencer had reached on a double and advanced to third on a Shea Lindsey groundout.

Crawford was 3 for 3 at the plate and threw her fifth shutout of the season in the circle — her second of the playoffs. She struck out batters to end the first and second innings with runners in scoring position.

“I’ve been under pressure like that a lot and it doesn’t really bother me that much. It just makes me want to do better and push myself harder,”?she said. “They came out stronger than we expected them to but I?think we played really good against them.”

“I know these are tough conditions to throw under. The ball is a little bit slick and little bit heavy but she did a great job,” Cary said.

Pendleton tacked on four more runs in the fifth inning before the game was called with one out due to a heavy downpour.

Rayne Spencer hit a two-RBI double that scored Kas Lemberger (2 for 3) and Beca McGrath, then broke up the tag at the plate to score on a MaKayla McKay single to center. The fourth run came when McKay scored on a passed ball. Reeghan Lehnert went 1 for 2 in the game but got on base three times.

The Bucks will play the winner of Churchill (17-9) and Putnam (21-4)?in the quarterfinals. Their Wednesday game was rained out and moved to today at 4 p.m.

No. 13 Churchill won the Midwestern League, which North Eugene (14-12)?was second in. No. 5 Putnam won the Northwest Oregon Conference.

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