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Eagles suffer heartbreaking loss

EAGLE POINT — A pair of unusual umpire calls and two recent tragic deaths worked against Eagle Point in a Class 5A softball opening-round state playoff loss Wednesday.

Lebanon capitalized on a couple of early runs combined with a poor offensive showing by the Eagles to post a 2-0 victory on an unusually windy day at Eagle Point High.

Lebanon (19-9), which lost to Churchill in the state finals a year ago, advances to a quarterfinal round game with top-seeded Dallas, which defeated Parkrose 7-0, on Friday. Eagle Point (19-7) got knocked out in the first round for the third straight year.

It was a hard-luck loss for Eagles’ four-year starting pitcher Megan Ayres, who was selected to the 2017 Class 5A all-state team. Ayres (16-7) allowed four hits, two of which came during the Warriors’ scoring rally, struck out six and didn’t issue a walk.

“She’s a dandy,” said Lebanon second-year coach Mardy Benedict about Ayres. “She was as good as expected. We wanted to put the pressure on by scoring early and we were able to manufacture a few runs.”

Instead of normal jerseys, Eagle Point wore tee shirts with “Shine for Shannon” written on the front in tribute to teammate Tella Morris’ mom who died from injuries resulting in a car wreck on Mother’s Day.

That came soon after former Eagle Point High student body president Hunter Hoeptner was killed in a motorcycle accident.

“It was hard to get the girls’ energy level back up to where it was at,” said Eagle Point coach John White, referring to the two deaths of community members.

The Eagle Point bats looked lethargic against Lebanon junior pitcher Lauren Christie, who limited the Eagles to four hits, struck out six and walked one.

Christie (11-4) stayed ahead in the count, forced a lot of routine grounders and fly balls and got some defensive help in key situations.

“I was really hitting my spots today,” said Christie, “and it was one of our best defensive games.”

The Warriors pushed across two runs in a quirky second inning.

Cassidy Wittrig opened the frame with a pop up that shortstop Gillian Willis could not get a read on and dropped in for a single just behind the infielder. After getting sacrificed to second, Wittrig scored on a hard single to center by Makenna Slavenski, who went to second on the throw home.

“All week we’ve been told (Ayres) pitches strikes,” said Slavenski, a Mid-Willamette Conference all-leaguer. “The first pitch was pretty much down the middle. I swung and it worked out.”

After Slavenski’s RBI single, Mary-Kate Whitlach struck out swinging but the ball skipped in the dirt and Eagles catcher Samantha Thompson failed make a throw as Whitlach raced to first. Then Kira Sneddon reached base on a swinging bunt down the third base line to load the bases. Thompson had Sneddon picked off of first after a first strike to Sarah Hartrum but Slavenski broke from third. Eagle Point first baseman Miyah Smith threw home and Thompson tagged out a sliding Slavenski but home plate umpire Dave Vasquez ruled catcher’s interference and Lebanon had a 2-0 lead.

As it turned out, it’s all the Warriors would need.

The Eagles, who had just one hit through six innings, opened the final frame with an infield single by Thompson. Ayres followed with a hard single to the left of Warriors shortstop Rylie Milligan.

With runners on first and second, Smith hit a pop up to the right side of the infield that second baseman Sneddon couldn’t catch. Thompson broke for third on the play and was gunned down by Slavenksi but Vasquez ruled the infield fly rule in effect and the Eagles ended up with a runner on first with two out. Riley Shopp then singled to keep the Eagles’ hopes alive but Christie got a called third strike on Morris to end the game.

“With this kind of wind, it’s debatable if it was a catchable ball or not,” said White, who didn’t see a signal by the umpires on the infield fly call. “But it came down to we didn’t string hits together. We normally hit the ball much better than that.”

It was a crushing loss for Ayres, who collected two of the Eagles’ four hits.

“It seemed like all of us were anxious at the plate,” said Ayres. “I didn’t want it to end but I wouldn’t want any other group of girls behind me.”

White sat in his dugout perplexed after the loss.

“I didn’t know what to say when I went out to talk to the girls after the game,” said White. “You get them prepared as well as you can but you never know what happens from there. It’s really an empty feeling to lose like this.”

Lebanon;020;000;0;—;2;4;0

Eagle Point;000;000;0;—;0;4;1

Christie and Wittrig; Ayres and Thompson. W — Christie (11-4). L — Ayres (16-7).

Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or fsilow@mailtribune.com