Kendall Murphy, who missed the first two months of the season, handcuffed Henley in the 4A final. (Photo by Norm Maves Jr.)
Kendall Murphy, who missed the first two months of the season, handcuffed Henley in the 4A final. (Photo by Norm Maves Jr.)

EUGENE – Last year, Pendleton's bid for a repeat softball state title was thwarted in the 4A semifinals with an extra-inning loss to Henley.

Saturday, the Buckaroos got a chance to settle the score with the Hornets, and they capitalized in a big way.

Junior Kendall Murphy pitched a two-hitter with seven strikeouts and one walk and Pendleton's bats came alive in the sixth and seventh innings as the third-seeded Buckaroos dispatched the No. 1 Hornets 4-0 in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 4A final at the University of Oregon.

It is the first 4A title for Pendleton, which won 5A championships in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2022.

“I think it was our year to come back here and show that we could have the power to do it,” Buckaroos junior Reese Furstenberg said. “We were better than that. We needed to come together as a team and do our best, and we did.”

Pendleton finished the season 29-2, losing only to reigning 4A champion The Dalles and Greater Oregon League rival La Grande. The Buckaroos drew motivations from last year's 11-10 semifinal defeat to Henley.

“That was definitely not one of our best games,” Murphy said. “I think since last year, we knew we were going to see them again, and we wanted to blow them out.”

Murphy, who missed the first 20 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery, kept the dangerous Hornets in check. Henley advanced only one runner into scoring position: a first-inning double by junior Samantha Moore, who was stranded at third base.

“Kendall was lights out,” Pendleton coach Tim Cary said. “She hit her spots, kind of kept them off balance, got a whole lot of ground balls. She was in the zone.”

Said Furstenberg: “Kendall was amazing.”

Murphy said it was her best game since returning.

“Even though I didn't get as many strikeouts as I wanted, I had good D behind me, and I kept the balls in bounds,” Murphy said. “I was able to trust them.

“It feels good to be back. All this season is kind of icing on top because I didn't think I'd be back for my school ball season. Now I'm here. It's been really fun.”

For the first five innings, Murphy was in a pitching duel against Henley senior Annie Campos. In the sixth inning, Pendleton's offense finally got to Campos.

Senior Avery Krigbaum led off by hitting a weak chopper to sophomore third baseman Jillian Vickery, whose high throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, allowing Krigbaum to reach safely.

One out later, with Krigbaum at second base, Furstenberg hit a high fly to right field. Hornets senior Suzy Nichols got turned while tracking the ball, and it went in and out of her glove for a double, plating Krigbaum to make it 1-0.

With two outs and Furstenberg on third base, sophomore Avery Quaempts smacked a roller up the middle for an RBI single and a 2-0 lead.

Pendleton got insurance in the top of the seventh when junior Josie Jenness blasted a two-out single off the second baseman Moore, driving in two runs.

“I knew sooner or later, because of the hitters that they are, that they would back me up,” Murphy said.

Jenness finished 3 for 4 with two RBIs and Quaempts went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Furstenberg had a double and drove in a run.

It was Furstenberg's first game at bat since she suffered a knee injury May 10. She was the team's ace for most of the season but did not pitch for more than two weeks before tossing two-thirds of an inning the semifinals.

“I was so shaken up. I was nervous,” Furstenberg said of batting Saturday.

Cary praised his team for its toughness.

“We've been fortunate to kind of work through some of the injuries and persevere, keep the team together,” Cary said. “Got to give it to the girls.”

Cary has led Pendleton to all five of its titles. He is 440-122 in 19 seasons with the Buckaroos, ranking No. 10 on the state's all-time wins list.

“This was a group that really plays together,” Cary said. “We don't have any individuals. This is a group that is very unselfish. I think that's huge.”

Henley (29-3) finished as runner-up for the second consecutive season. Last year, the Hornets lost to The Dalles 16-0 in five innings.

Campos, who led Henley to the 4A girls basketball title in the winter, took the loss in the final for the second year in a row. She gave up seven hits, struck out 11 and walked three.