Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Oregon street department flushed water hydrants.
Later that evening in a 10-7 regional semifinal win, the Oregon softball team picked up where the street department left off by delivering a similar wallop to Byron.
“We teach our team to weather the storm, but the storm came and capsized our ship” Byron coach Evan Burris said.
That storm arrived with a torrent in the fifth inning, as the Lady Hawks put nine runs on the scoreboard.
“It was such a great team win,” Oregon first-year coach Lindsay Nauman said. “It was one through nine doing their job and people coming off the bench and doing exactly what they should.”
Trailing 4-1 going into the top of the fifth, Melissa Youngren started the onslaught with a single to right field. Bella Holley and Tayla Smith then reached base on fielder choices and poor defense by the Lady Tigers.
“We all knew we could hit,” said Nauman, who calmly told her players that they could regain the lead.
“We’ve been doing it all year. It was just confidence.”
Suddenly, Oregon had the bases loaded with nobody out and the top of its order up.
Sommer Rhea, who came in to pinch run for Youngren, scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Bree
Tourtillott. Abby Baker, who was the winning pitcher, walked to load the bases again.
Hope Smith, who drove in Tourtillot in the first inning with a double, nearly took off the third baseman’s head with a line shot down the left-field line, driving in Annie Wilson and Tayla Smith to tie the score, 4-4.
“Hope Smith has been such a great addition,” said Nauman of the Rochelle transfer. “It’s a bat we can count on.”
Smith then scored on a throwing error to first base on a Kasey Lapp grounder. It was a sloppy game defensively, as both teams combined for 12 errors.
Lapp was brought in on a Kayla Pottorf double, as virtually every Lady Hawk was getting in on the fifth inning slugfest. Emma Crandall, who earlier reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on another Youngren hit, as the team batted around the order.
“Melissa Youngren has been injured most of the season and was our designated player (DP) tonight,” explained Nauman.
Oregon wasn’t done yet. Holley doubled into left center, plating pinch runner Kaitlyn Oltmanns. Byron’s fifth-inning collapse continued with a dropped pop-up, allowing Youngren and Holley to cross the plate for a 10-4 lead.
“I thought we could have gotten out of that inning, but they put the pressure on us,” Burris said. “It was a momentum change.”
Byron added three runs in the botton of the fifth to close to within 10-7, but Baker shut the Lady Tigers down in the final two innings to earn a complete game win.
Rachel Bonnell took the loss for Byron, but had the play of the game in the fourth inning. The freshman made a diving catch of a Lapp sacrifice bunt and then recovered in time to throw Smith out at first for a double play.
The win advances No. 3 seed Oregon to the 2A regional final against No. 1 seed Stillman Valley, who beat Forreston-Polo 5-0.
The win also gave the Lady Hawks a 2-1 advantage over Byron in a season-long rivalry. None-the-less, it was bittersweet for Nauman, a former Byron softball player.
“I never want to send my home team out of the regional, but I’m an Oregon Hawk now,” Nauman said.