Timely hitting for Grizzlies breaks losing streak
There were the six runners left on base or the six errors Newberg committed that gave McMinnville opportunities. Every time, though, the rally would be snuffed out by a double play, a hard-hit ball right at a defender or another frustrating circumstance.
All that changed in the bottom of the seventh. Down to their final three outs and trailing 3-2, the Grizzlies were able to rally and avoid their fifth loss in a row and seventh in their last eight games. Kaylee McManus led off the bottom of the seventh inning by beating out an infield hit, and Makayla Khatewoda reached on a fielder’s choice. McManus was thrown out at home plate after Newberg’s third baseman committed an error, but Khatewoda was still on second with one out.
Layne Pendleton, who went 2-for-4 in the game, delivered, sending a sharply hit ball into right field for a hit that scored Khatewoda.
The Grizzlies (4-8) held the Tigers scoreless in the top of the eighth inning, and Mackenzie Davis led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left field that rolled all the way to the wall. Allison Ulbricht moved Davis to third base on a sacrifice bunt for the first out, and Josie Smith grounded out to the pitcher for the second out.
The stage was set for Lauren Ulbricht, who was 1-for-3 in the game leading up to her at bat in the eighth. She had seen four pitches in her three at bats, choosing to swing early in the count and be aggressive. She didn’t waver in her strategy in the pressure situation, jumping on the first pitch she saw from Raena Kernodle and sending it back up the middle for a base hit that scored Davis for the winning run.
“I’m really eager that’s usually what happens,” Ulbricht said, explaining her free-swinging approach. “And pitchers tend to give you the first good pitch and that’s what I try to catch.
I was hoping that I would get the chance because I felt like I could do it and make it happen. It felt so good.”
Players came pouring out of the McMinnville dugout to greet Davis at home plate, then they all surrounded Ulbricht, who kept her helmet on through the postgame talk with coach Courtney Seifert.
“(Lauren) is one that hasn’t hit as well the last few games,” Seifert said, “and we needed her to step up. She came up in a couple of clutch situations and delivered. She did a great job.”
The offense has been lacking for Mac the past few weeks since it scored 16 runs over spring break vs. Milwaukie, but the Grizzlies had 10 hits Wednesday vs. Newberg.
“That’s something we haven’t really done the last couple of games,” Seifert said. “That was nice to see them get back on top of that.”
The Grizzlies had to play from behind for the first seven innings. Newberg scored one run in the top of the first inning off starting pitcher Kamrie Hoggard and added two more in the top of the second inning. The Grizzlies got two runs back in the bottom of the second inning on RBIs by Kristin King and McManus but couldn’t find any more offense over the next three innings.
Newberg seemed to be getting to Hoggard in the top of the fourth inning, and Seifert put in Sam Hensley. It very well could have been the move of the game. Hensley pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless softball and allowed four hits and two walks. She struck out six batters, including the last two of the eighth inning with the go-ahead run on second base.
Seifert said she told Hensley that she just needed strikes.
“(Sam) did a great job,” Seifert said. “We need her and Kamrie to work together. One needs to go three and the other go four. … That’s what we need from them. We need to be able to use both of them.
Hensley, who lined into an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the seventh inning, said the Grizzlies have been in quite a few games, and players were trying to break the cycle of coming up short.
“It has been like that in a lot of the games,” Hensley said. “We were hoping for not another, ‘Here we go again.’ We needed this.”
McMinnville lost 4-2 Tuesday at Tigard, but Wednesday’s win gives them an early 1-1 record in the Pacific Conference. Seifert said trying to get every player do their part has been a big theme this year.
“That’s all you can ask of your kids,” she said, “they do their jobs, and they did tonight.”
Notes: Davis was 3-for-4 Wednesday with a run scored. King and McManus also had hits for the Grizzlies.