McKenzie Hauck went 3 for 4 against the Huskies and has a .714 batting average in the team’s last three games. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Coming off the bench over the past week as a fresh contributor to the Philomath High softball team, McKenzie Hauck has taken advantage of the opportunity. In a win over Newport and losses to Cascade and Sweet Home, Hauck’s bat has been a bright spot with the PHS junior going a combined 5 for 7.

In a 19-7 loss on Saturday afternoon to Sweet Home, Hauck had her best game yet with a 3-for-4 effort.

“Hauck is kind of a blessing in disguise because she’s come off the bench and she’s still hitting the ball,” PHS coach Travis King said. “She had three hits today and on her fourth at-bat, she still put the ball in play. She’s doing well at seeing the ball.”

Sophomore Ahnika Tryon also had a productive performance against the Huskies by going 3 for 4 and driving in a run. Tryon has had two multi-hit games this season with both against Sweet Home.

Although the Warriors had a degree of success at the plate with 10 hits, Philomath could not solve its fielding issues with 10 errors against the Huskies.

“Mentally, it just feels like we’re not here or into the game all the time and it shows,” King said. “The third or fourth inning seems to be our nemesis. We can easily get things going for three or four innings … it’s like we have about a two-hour attention span before everything falls apart.”

Sophomore Ahnika Tryon drives in a run with a single in the third inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News

The pitchers also struggled by putting 16 Sweet Home players on base with walks and allowing 13 hits. With the error problems worked in, 11 of the Huskies’ 19 runs were unearned.

“We moved people around today and tried some different things … obviously some different pitchers got to see some time,” King said.

The first two innings favored Philomath on the scoreboard with the Warriors escaping back-to-back bases-loaded jams while scoring two in the bottom of the second.

Hauck opened the inning with a single to center and two batters later, Elizabeth Morales-Marquez reached on an error. Jenae Traglia then walked to load the bases with one out. Hannah Bennett put the ball in play with a grounder to second to plate Hauck. Morales-Marquez later scored for the 2-0 lead.

Sweet Home countered in the third with nine runs but the Warriors made things interesting in the bottom half of the inning by scoring four and getting back to within three runs of the lead. Ashlynn Barron led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a grounder and reached third on a passed ball before scoring on a Tryon single.

Third baseman Hannah Beck throws to first while pitcher Elizabeth Morales-Marquez ducks. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Hauck followed with a single and both base runners moved up into scoring position — Tryon stealing third and Hauck moving up on a passed ball. Mackenzie Hiner came through with a single to drive in both Tryon and Hauck.

Ashley Kohler, who came in as a courtesy runner for Hiner, made her way around the basepaths and scored the other run in the inning.

King said he knows his players can produce at the plate.

“I think we lack the confidence when we get into the game scenario of hitting the ball,” he said. “Today, actually might be a good turning point in that direction — they were swinging the bats and putting the ball in play and that’s way better than what we’ve been doing.”

Sweet Home scored in the top of the fourth to go up 10-6 and the Warriors added a run to their total in the bottom of the fifth to get back to within three runs. Tryon opened the inning with a double, moved up on a Hauck single and scored on a Hannah Beck single.

Kyla Berger throws from the fence in center field on Saturday against Sweet Home. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The wheels fell off for Philomath the rest of the way, however, with the visitors scoring twice in the sixth and seven in the seventh.

“If we could figure out some way to get it all together at one time,” King said. “The one win I take away from today is we weren’t striking out and we were putting the ball in play, which in my opinion, is a huge win for us.”

It was the third game in four days for the Warriors with a schedule that’s been jumbled by rainouts. Philomath was actually supposed to also play on Friday against Sisters the Outlaws reportedly did not have enough players for a full team. Philomath was awarded a forfeit win.

The Warriors (7-9 overall, 6-5 Oregon West) are scheduled to play Monday at Sweet Home before heading to Woodburn on Wednesday for a doubleheader.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.