West Salem — As Oregon Thunder’s Alivia Eastman put it, “We came out and got punched in the mouth to start the game. The Thunder’s path to the Stars Bracket Championship wasn’t the smoothest in the title game, especially when your opponent comes out with an inside-the-park home run and another dinger on back to back hitters to start the game. Even though it took until the fourth inning, the Thunder kept battling and eventually took the lead, showing their true colors in an impressive show of mental toughness on Saturday.
After an out opened up the game, Kya Jenkins drilled a bomb to the outfield, hustling her way around the bases with an inside-the-park home run and handing the Fire a 1-0 lead early. Kekai Shultz added to the early punch to the Thunder, drilling a homer over the fence and making it 2-0 Fire. Kacie Schmidt would eventually settle down, with her defense getting a clutch double play to get out of the top of the first.
With the two runs scored, things settled down all the way until the bottom of the third, with the Thunder loading the bases courtesy of singles from Eastman and Camilie Leach, along with a double from Rylee Valentine. Schmidt would aid her own cause with an RBI single, cutting the deficit to 2-1. After a pop out to second, the Fire would turn a double play to strand the bases loaded and get out of the third inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Natasha Stubbs and Addison Kachnik both singled, while Sophia VanderSommen got drilled with a pitch, loading the bases once again with no outs. Cassidy Kachnik hit an RBI single to tie it at two when Emily Paulson hit the go ahead RBI single on a shallow fly ball, giving the Thunder a 3-2 lead over the Fire.
Eastman stepped up and hit a 2 RBI double, extending the lead to a 5-2 game for the Thunder. Leach, up for the second time in the inning, drove in another run on a sacrifice fly and made it a four run lead at 6-2. Schmidt would put an explanation mark on the rally, drilling a double and making it 7-2 Thunder to cap the offensive explosion in the inning. Addie MacPherson hit a leadoff single in the fifth for the Fire and after advancing to second on a wild pitch, Bella Aspaas hit an RBI single to cut the deficit to 7-3. Addison Kachnik hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead to 8-3 and her sister Cassidy lit a firework to end the scoring, drilling a bomb over the fence in the sixth and making it 9-3 Thunder, a score that would stand to the end of the game. The Thunder collected 17 hits in the game, while having no hitters strike out or walk on offense.
With a tournament title in hand, it was a strong return for the Thunder, who hadn’t played in a tournament all summer and head to Oklahoma in two weeks for a National Tournament. Cassidy Kachnik and Alivia Eastman discussed the win afterwards, recapped the weekend in general, and talked going to Oklahoma…
Kachnik on the weekend, “I think coming from not playing any games and not really having any practice the last couple weeks, I think us coming out the way we did was really good for us, and it helped us get back into the swing of playing against live pitching and all of that. Oh yeah, it was cool to win too.”
Eastman on things the Thunder can improve on, “Just like Cassidy said, baserunning is definitely the biggest thing. Cuts and relays can be worked on, and also just seeing live pitching and getting our confidence back when its game time.”
Kachnik on what she learned from the weekend, “We definitely need to work on baserunning and just knowing where the ball is. Being able to communicate on the field, especially when cuts need to be made, and so I think its about working on the little things we weren’t able to really work on because of the quarantine.”
Eastman on her expectations in Oklahoma, “When I look at us in these big tournaments, I view it as an opportunity to get away from Oregon softball. California softball is different from Oregon softball, and although I have never been to Oklahoma, I think that just putting the work in practice and knowing that we might see different types of ball players and game will help us in Oklahoma.”