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Lady Braves earn trip to state semifinals

Banks girls advance with a dramatic 4-3 win over McLoughlin and a 12-2 drubbing of Elmira

Forgive Banks softball fans if they're experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu, but this year's state playoffs are starting to feel an awful lot like 2010 again.

After running away with a regular-season Cowapa League title, the Lady Braves survived a first-round playoff scare from a middle-of-the-pack team before hammering their quarterfinal opponent and earning a trip to Klamath Falls to play in the state semifinals.

Sound familiar? It should, because that's the same path Banks took to the state championship game in 2010, when the Braves lost a heartbreaker to Cascade.

If the cards fall right this week, Banks could find itself matched up against Cascade in the state finals once again, playing in the ultimate karmic payback game.

'It's a little weird,' Banks coach Jenny Compton said of the similarities between this year's playoff run and 2010. 'But I don't want to jinx it, so we haven't really talked about it.'

Two years ago, Compton's team snuck past Stayton in the first round, pounded Sisters in the quarterfinals and then beat Henley on its own field to earn a spot in the state title game.

This year's squad got things started last week with a dramatic 4-3, come-from-behind victory against McLoughlin, then posted a 12-2, mercy-rule win over Elmira in the quarterfinals, setting up another playoff road trip to Klamath Falls, where the Lady Braves were scheduled to face Mazama on Tuesday.

The winner of that game advances to the Class 4A state finals, which will be played Saturday at the Oregon State Softball Complex in Corvallis. Cascade was scheduled to play Henley on Tuesday in the other state semifinal. Results of those games were not available at press time.

Banks (23-4) got a scare from McLoughlin (15-10) in its playoff opener last Wednesday, going 11 innings against the Greater Oregon League champions.

The Lady Braves trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the 11th, but Compton skipped the fiery motivational speech and instead let her veteran team handle business on its own.

'We didn't tell them anything different than usual,' Compton said. 'Obviously we knew we needed to get at least one run to extend the game. I don't know if it changed the girls' mentality, but I didn't feel a lot of extra pressure.'

True to form, the Lady Braves rallied in the bottom of the 11th, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Facing a 1-1 count and looking to slap a ball to the right side, junior Aubrey Rue delivered the game-winning single, lining a pitch into right-center field that scored Lexi Chung and Chelsie Bunn.

'We obviously wanted to win really bad, so when we got those two runs we were pretty excited,' Compton said.

The ho-hum attitude displayed by the Lady Braves after their come-from-behind victory was on display again last Friday when the team found itself trailing Elmira (22-3) 2-0 after the first inning.

Banks responded with three runs in the top of the third, four more runs in the fifth, and five runs in the sixth to end the game early by the 10-run rule.

'The girls already knew what to expect with that pitcher, so once they got on her it made it tougher for her to know what to throw,' Compton said. 'Our girls were just really patient, and they waited for good pitches to hit.'

Marla Gooding and Melissa Masters sparked the Banks offense with back-to-back doubles in the third inning, turning the early 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead, and the Braves never looked back.

Madison Soper made it a 6-2 game in the top of the fifth with a bases-loaded double down the left field line, and she scored later in the inning when Rue was caught in a rundown between first and second.

Kaylin Vandomelen started the sixth inning with a double and Gooding drove her home with another double. Masters followed with a two-run home run, and Rue capped the scoring five batters later with a two-run triple down the right field line.

Now the Braves must face Mazama (18-7) on its home field for the right to play in the state title game on Saturday.

'We're just taking it one game at a time, so we don't want to get ahead of ourselves or overlook any opponent,' Compton said. 'We feel good about where we are and what we've accomplished this season. Win or lose, these girls have a lot to be proud of.'