By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
PRINEVILLE For the second time in the state tournament, Hermiston faced Cascade and their ace pitcher Jessica Slate, this time with a championship on the line.
For the second time, Cascade celebrated a victory while Hermiston players and coaches were left scratching their heads.
Slate fired a complete game four-hit shutout in the title tilt as Cascade won the championship 5-0 on the strength of their pitcher's three-run double in the third inning.
Gracie Flyg tossed all six innings for Hermiston, pitching admirably against a team that scored a 3-0 win in the tournament opener for both teams.
Flyg did not notch many strikeouts on the day, but her defense played well behind her when the ball was hit on the ground, nearly rivaling their 17 putouts in the first meeting between the two teams.
Both teams played near-flawless defense, and aside from a couple of baserunning mistakes the game was practically pristine.
Flyg, Samantha Parsons, Maloree Moss and Crystal Schmidt accounted for Hermiston's offensive output, but they were unable to string any of those hits together and only had multiple runners on base once in the game.
Three times Hermiston got a runner to third base, but they were unable to capitalize in scoring position and were especially held in check in those situations, largely by Slate's 13 strikeouts.
Hermiston might have come up on the short end in the final, but their fans, parents and coaches were quick to recognize that the squad had played a sound game not only in the championship game, but in the entire tournament before that as well.
"I thought it was great," coach Dale Waters said. "In the first game she shut us down and we got the bat on the ball a bit more this time. Gracie pitched well, and our defense stepped it up and played great the entire tournament."
Despite the defeat, Hermiston seemed proud of reaching the state championship game even though they were pretty much neutralized in the finale.
"We had a great tournament, and we got to the state championship game." Waters said. "Cascade's pitcher just threw really well, but it was a solid game throughout."
A semifinal shutout win over Pendleton, who many not bearing the purple and gold might not have expected, is sire to remain a tangible memory along with those pewter ball-and-glove trophies