Morrison shines in a one-hit shutout of Eagle Point

With a goal of capturing their first state title in softball since 1995, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen were all business in a May 23 first-round Class 5A state playoff game with 19th-ranked Eagle Point, winning 7-0.

It was the 14th straight win for the second-ranked Kingsmen (20-6, 13-1), who were to meet seventh-ranked The Dalles in last Friday's quarterfinals. With a win in that game, they'd meet 11th-ranked Liberty or 13th-ranked Silverton in the May 29 semifinals. And if they won in the semifinals, they'd likely meet top-ranked Pendleton in the championship final, set for Oregon State University on Saturday, June 2. Putnam got blown out by Pendleton 10-0 in last year's quarterfinals.

'We're a much tougher team [than we were last year],' says senior captain Anna Rau. 'We've got great chemistry. We all get along and we play really well together.'

'We're a lot better, offensively and defensively,' says senior Missy Bottinelli.

'I'm very proud of the girls for coming this far, and I'm looking forward to the next game,' Putnam coach Tiffany Strnad said, following the rout of Eagle Point, a game which was played at Hood View Park, after a 30-minute delay for a thunderstorm.

'The girls came out ready to play, very intense,' said Strnad. 'They stayed focused, even with the delay.'

The Kingsmen took charge of the Eagle Point game from the outset, going up 1-0 in the first inning and stretching their lead to 4-0 with three runs in the second stanza.

Senior pitcher Breann Morrison was sharp, striking out 11 and walking no one, while allowing just one hit. And her teammates supported her with error-free defensive play.

Morrison (2-for-5) helped her own cause with a two-run home run and a run-scoring single. Sophomore Taylor Balfour (2-for-3) and freshman Kate Betschart (2-for-4) also had two hits apiece, as the Kingsmen punished the ball for 10 hits.

Putnam took advantage of Eagle pitcher control problems to move on top early. Betschart led off the bottom of the first with a walk, Morrison reached on an error, and Rau and Emily Lauder drew consecutive walks to force in a run.

Cora Lea Stewart led off the second with a base hit, Courtney Lightner reached on an error. The runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Lauren Roberts. Betschart, Morrison and Rau then plated runs with consecutive singles.

The Kingsmen added three runs with two outs in the sixth. Balfour reached on a fielder's choice and Morrison followed with a two-run home run, her sixth round-tripper of the year. Rau doubled. and Lauder singled to bring Rau around.

The win over Eagle Point was the fifth shutout in their last seven games for the Kingsmen, who handled Madison 13-1 in the May 17 play-in round.

Of the eight teams advancing to the Class 5A softball quarterfinals, Putnam, at 20-6, had one of the better win-loss records. Seventh-ranked Dallas was 22-5; fifth-ranked West Albany was 21-5 and Pendleton, which played a number of Class 6A schools, was 20-7.

Putnam was one of three Northwest Oregon Conference schools advancing to the quarterfinals. Sandy (17-6) beat Mt. View 4-0 and Liberty (16-9) beat Hermiston 8-7 in May 23 first-round games.

Putnam's baseball team also advanced to last Friday's quarterfinals, winning 11-5 at ninth-ranked Willamette in the May 23 first round.

Ranked 10th in the state, Putnam hardballers (19-9) were to meet top-ranked Summit (23-5) on the road in last Friday's quarterfinals. With an upset of the Storm, they'd advanced to a May 29 semifinal game with either fifth-ranked Ashland (17-9) or NWOC champion and fourth-ranked Sherwood (23-4).

The Class 5A state championship baseball game is scheduled for Saturday, June 2, at Volcanoes Stadium.

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