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Softball loses heartbreaker

by: Michael Cade, Kayla Opperman on the mound vs. Gresham.

GRESHAM - It's been a tough year for Sandy softball, and, at this point in the season, there might be no better way to brighten the Pioneers' spirits than to steal a win from rival Gresham on its home turf.

And for a while on Friday, May 4, it looked like that was going to happen.

Sandy got itself off to a 2-0 lead early in the game, as early runs by freshman Kyza White and junior Samantha Beem gave Sandy an initial burst of confidence.

Things tightened up in the bottom of the second, though, when Charlie Neilan's RBI single drove in Stephanie Guenther to make the score Sandy 2, Gresham 1.

The Gophers made things even in the third inning, when Leah Justice's single allowed Sarah Hurwitz to blast into home plate.

Presto, the game was tied.

Sandy still had some tricks up its sleeve, though, as coach Laurie Smallwood manufactured a suicide squeeze play that sophomore Stephanie Mallory was the key beneficiary of.

The ball got past Gresham's catcher, allowing Mallory to arrive at home plate in the fifth inning.

Sandy led 3-2.

The ping-pong game continued when Gresham answered with an Ashley Billingsley run in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Presto, game tied again.

Billingsley's run was a result of Gresham's third consecutive hit in the fifth inning, and it was at that point that Sandy decided to rest starting pitcher Kayla Opperman.

'Gresham started getting Kayla's timing figured out,' Smallwood said. 'Once the game was tied and bases were loaded, we made the change.'

Junior Courtney Brown came in in relief, but it was the type of night where whichever team was at bat in the bottom of the seventh was likely to come away with a victory.

And that's precisely what happened.

Gresham, with one out and two runners on base, received a clutch RBI single from Guenther that allowed Brittney Weissenbuehler to sprint from third base to home and a 4-3 win.

'It is heartbreaking,' Smallwood said. 'This is our second close game with Gresham, and the sixth close game of the season where we've yet to come up with the win.'

Smallwood indicated that having a youthful roster, as Sandy does, was one reason for some of the close losses.

Still, Smallwood remained positive as she has all throughout a difficult season, and she specifically took time to praise Mallory's skilled base running on the fifth inning squeeze play.

'That takes a pretty smart base runner,' Smallwood said.