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Champions again

Banks got all the offense it would need when MaKenna Partain hit a fifth-inning double and then scored on a throwing error during Molly Hammond’s at-bat in a 1-0 win against McLoughlin on Saturday at the OSU Softball Complex in Corvallis.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Banks celebrates after winning title.

With the victory, the Braves (29-2) won their second consecutive Class 4A state championship and their 25th game in a row. In 2012, Banks defeated two-time defending champion Cascade 2-0 to earn the first-place trophy. The title is the program’s third overall, with the first coming in 1999 in Class 3A under the old four-classification system.

“I feel excited,” said senior left fielder Lexi Chung, who had one of Banks’ four hits in the game, following the postgame awards ceremony. “I’m so happy that we could get back here again and this time for our senior year, so it’s great to leave on that good of a memory.”

In the Braves’ successful repeat bid, on a sunshine-splashed morning in Corvallis, Kaylin VanDomelen was masterful on the mound against the Pioneers of Milton-Freewater. The North Dakota-bound senior limited McLoughlin (24-7) to just one hit – a first-inning single by Megan Reed – and hit one batter and struck out 11 in seven innings.

On offense, the Braves knocked McLouglin sophomore pitcher Colette Robert for four hits. After going three and out in the first four innings, Partain, Banks’ standout freshman shortstop/pitcher, finally broke through with a smash to left field to lead off the fifth. After Madison Soper struck out, Hammond put the ball in play to Robert, whose throw to first base was off, allowing the fleet-footed Partain to score easily and for Hammond to take second base.

That turned out to be the only run, but Banks came close to doubling its lead in the next at-bat. After JoJo Wren took second base as a courtesy runner for Hammond, freshman Megan Bunn sent a single to right field and Wren rounded third and then slid into home, but she was called out under the tag of Pioneers catcher Cheyenne Kessler.

But that one run was plenty enough, as the Pioneers could get no closer to scoring the rest of the way than when Nicole Hendley reached second base after a Banks throwing error in the fifth. In fact McLouglin never advanced past second base during the game, and the ball never left the infield during the Pioneers’ plate appearances except for in the first inning, when Robert sent a well-struck ball into left field that was easily handled by Chung for the second out of the inning.

“One ball to me, finally,” noted Chung, adding that VanDomelen’s dominant pitching has not allowed many batters to send balls in her direction.

The win brought to a close the high school careers of Chung, VanDomelen, Riley Gerlinger and Courtney Engeseth, who have all played sizeable roles on the team during their time at Banks. All four were starters both Saturday and in the title game as freshmen back in 2010, when the Braves lost to Cascade. And Gerlinger, Chung and VanDomelen also started last year’s championship contest.

“It’s been so much fun. This season was amazing,” said Gerlinger, the second baseman. “We really got close this season and were a team, and it was so much fun, and I’m sad that it’s over.”

Check Wednesday’s issue of the News-Times for more on this game and the Braves’ 2013 playoff run.



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