baseball-- Banks Senior American squad finishes third at 2006 JBO state tournament

When Banks held tryouts for its Junior Baseball of Oregon Senior American team, 18 players showed up.

Coach Mike Soper could have - and probably should have - been worried that the team's lack of depth might be a hindrance during the season, but all Banks did was rattle off a 19-1 record en route to winning a Washington County championship, followed by a third-place finish at this weekend's JBO State Tournament at Poynter Middle School in Hillsboro.

'It was a fantastic year,' said Soper. 'All the kids contributed during the season and the playoffs. It was a true team effort - all 12 players were a big asset to the team.'

Banks' lack of depth notwithstanding, the team rattled off two straight wins on Thursday and Friday to advance to the semifinals at the state tournament before ultimately falling to Tigard and Roseburg, the two teams that finished first and second, respectively, in the state.

'The boys just ran out of steam,' said Soper. 'We just didn't have the depth, coming from a small community. Most teams carry between six and eight pitchers - we had two.'

Those two pitchers were enough to get the Braves into the state tournament semifinals with a pair of thrilling victories over Westview and Molalla.

On Thursday, Banks opened tournament play with an 11-6, come-from-behind win over Westview. Trailing 3-2 through five complete innings, Banks rallied to plate eight runs in the final two frames for the win.

Chris Shaw went 4-for-4 at the plate, and he also pitched the final two innings, shutting down Westview as the Braves hung on for the victory. Michael Nowak started the game on the mound and tossed five effective innings.

On Friday, Banks found itself tied with Molalla heading into the top of the seventh, but Nick Turner untied things, belting a two-run home run that provided the margin of victory in an 11-9 triumph.

Nowak, who pitched the first two innings, re-entered the game and got Molalla to go one-two-three in the bottom of the seventh. Shaw and Tyler Kite also pitched in the game, while Jimmy Criswell slammed a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the second inning.

'We want to thank our sponsor, Pihl Excavating, and a special thanks goes to Banks High School baseball coach Wyman Smith, who helped us out a ton. He worked with the kids, let us use the field, whatever we wanted. He was great,' said Soper.

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