PHS junior Ahnika Tryon focuses on the plate after coming in at pitcher in the second inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Down 9-0 in the second inning Tuesday afternoon against The Dalles, Philomath High softball coach Travis King needed to mix things up in the circle to try to stop the bleeding.

Enter Ahnika Tryon, the 5-foot-10 junior who 10 days earlier started for the Warriors in a trophy game at the state basketball tournament. Once she was able to join the softball team, there were limited opportunities to practice and most of her work focused on first base.

“We got her in some practice at the end of last week and over the weekend,” King said following Philomath’s 12-1 loss. “She’s looking good, she’s throwing well, so I think she’s going to end up being a key part of our pitching.”

Asked about when she last pitched in a varsity game, Tryon couldn’t remember. Her lone appearance in the circle in 2022 occurred on the road in an appearance against Yreka, California, at the North Medford Spring Break Invitational.

Entering the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the second, Philomath ended the inning with a ground ball to second base. Tryon said she didn’t really have much time to think about the situation.

“I was just going out there and pitching and seeing what happened with really no high expectations,” she said.

A strong wind knocked down this fly ball to center field but PHS senior Mia Bennett adjusted her glove in time to make the catch. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Tryon ended up allowing five hits, two earned runs and two walks with five strikeouts in 3-1/3 innings. It’s one of the better pitching performances of the season so far for the Warriors, which have allowed 44 runs in three games.

The Dalles (1-1) took control of the game early with three runs in the first and six in the second. Freshman Madalynn Sagapolutele hit the first pitch she saw to left-center to put the Riverhawks up 2-0. The visitors took advantage of five walks in the second inning to build a lead.

The Warriors couldn’t get anything going on offense and had just one hit in the game — Janae Traglia’s leadoff single in the fourth.

Philomath scored a run in the fifth to avoid the shutout thanks to walks and a hit by pitch. Elizabeth Morales-Marquez walked, Mia Bennett was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and Presley Reichhuber walked to load the bases. Traglia pushed a run across by working a walk.

Mia Bennett had three putouts in center field — including two notable catches in the first inning alone. On the first, she adjusted to a strong wind for the out and on the second, she made an over-the-shoulder catch near the fence.

Philomath (0-3) has gone up against a challenging schedule so far this season, a stretch that prior to Tuesday included a loss to unbeaten 5A Lebanon followed by a torrid comeback by the opponent in a setback at Junction City.

The Dalles’ Despina Seufalemua slides safely across home plate while Philomath catcher Jenae Traglia tries to get a handle on the throw. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“We’ve got some stuff that we really need to shore up here and get the energy going,” King said. “We’ve got some key parts to it and it’s going to turn … there’s going to be a breaking point where it’s like ‘oh’ and then we’re going to take off.”

The upcoming schedule features seven straight games away from the home field. The Warriors are scheduled to play Thursday at Gladstone before heading to the North Medford Spring Break Tournament on March 27-28, which will include games against Pacheco (California), Ashland, Dayton and Brookings-Harbor. Later on April 7-8, Philomath will play games at Pendleton and La Grande before opening league play at home on April 10.

From a player’s perspective, Tryon believes the upcoming stretch of road games could help bring the team together.

“I think we really need to bond more and put more effort into practices,” she said. “Stuff like that would be helpful for the team.”

Brad Fuqua

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.