Huskies upset Hidden Valley on road in softball playoffs

Sweet Home softball pulled off an upset win against No. 8 Hidden Valley (19-8) on the Mustangs’ home field in a play-in game on May 20.

It took the Huskies one extra inning to knock off the favored Grants Pass-area school, with Sweet Home ultimately winning 9-6.

The win put the Huskies into the state’s main playoff draw. Results from their matchup against No. 1 seeded Henley on Tuesday were not available before press time.

“We went in with the mentality that we were going to do everything we could to win, and the girls truly believed that they were capable of winning the game,” Head Coach Emily Marchbanks said. “They didn’t just give in because of our difference in rankings.”

After two innings, the game was tied at 2-2. But Sweet Home struck for three runs in the top of the fourth. Natalie Smith singled, scoring two, and Brooke Burke tripled to score Smith.

But in the bottom of the fifth, Hidden Valley bounced back with three runs of its own to tie the game at 5-5.

The matchup was scoreless for the next two innings, forcing the game into extras. That’s when Sweet Home put up a big four run inning. Smith scored on a passed ball, and then Burke broke the game open by doubling down the right field line, scoring three and giving her team a commanding 9-5 lead. One run for the Mustangs when it was their turn to the bat wasn’t enough, and Sweet Home came away with the victory.

In the evenly matched contest, both teams had 10 hits. Sweet Home made five errors on defense while Hidden Valley made four.

“When we did make errors, often we would come back with making the next play, which is what we’ve really been focusing on – not letting errors string,” Marchbanks said. “[Hidden Valley] had runners on in a lot of innings where we got out of it before they scored or scored very many, and a big part of it is being mentally tough defensively.”

Makayla Guthrie pitched a complete game for Sweet Home, allowing six earned runs on 10 hits while striking out five and walking four. “Makayla did excellently,” Marchbanks said.

“She did a really good job of handling their batters. They didn’t have a lot of hits in a row. They started to string some stuff together during the fifth inning when they scored those three runs, but a few of those runs were on errors.

“They were not all earned. She did a really good job of staying tough mentally and continuing to work through the batters and throw her pitches.”

In the circle for the Mustangs, Bri Jacob gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits while striking out five and walking four.

The Huskies knew that Jacob liked to throw rise balls, Marchbanks said. “So we worked on not swinging at those and being able to adjust to changeups,” the coach noted. She said her team has been working a lot this season on being more aggressive on good pitches and disciplined on “chase” pitches, the latter of which occurs when pitchers try to bait batters into “chasing” pitches out of the strike zone.

Burke had a monster day at the plate for the Huskies. The senior went 4-5 with four RBIs, and was a home run away from the cycle with a triple, a double, and two singles. Smith went 1-4 with two RBIs, and Guthrie helped herself in the circle by going 2-4 in the batter’s box.

In the end, the Huskies (9-13) embraced their underdog role in the game to great effect. “We [as coaches] told [the girls] to leave it all on the field and go all out and just play our best,” Marchbanks said. “We were underdogs coming into this, so there was no pressure.”