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Braves get four straight victories

Banks girls open the season with impressive wins over Marist, Sherwood

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail can keep the Banks girls from winning softball games.

The Lady Braves endured some harsh weather conditions last week at the North Medford Spring Break Invite, but still managed to pick up right where they left off last season, winning four straight games against stiff competition to show that they are again one of the teams to beat in the chase for a Class 4A state championship.

Banks opened last week's tournament with a 7-6 victory over Sherwood in a miserable, freezing rain storm that periodically blanketed the field in hail, riding a gutsy pitching performance from junior Melissa Masters.

'Her hand was freezing by the end of the game, but she did a good job of fighting through it,' Banks head coach Jenny Compton said. 'We were all pretty cold by the end of the game. The girls weren't looking too spry out there.'

The weather lifted in time for Banks' next game against Horizon Christian, and junior Marla Gooding took her turn in the pitcher's circle, leading the Lady Braves to a 5-3 win.

That set up Tuesday's showdown with perennial powerhouse Marist, which moved up to Class 5A this season after winning two of the last three 4A state championships. The Braves and Spartans last met in the 2009 state playoffs, with Marist advancing 3-2 behind ace pitcher Nyree White.

'I had requested to play them [at the tournament] because I knew how good of a pitcher Nyree was, and I thought it would be good for our hitters to see her,' Compton said. 'We didn't score off her, but we got a couple hits and I definitely thought it was good for us.'

The Lady Braves didn't score against White, but they did manage three runs in the first inning against a different pitcher, and Gooding shut down Marist's offense en route to an impressive 3-1 victory.

Banks closed out the tournament with a 12-0 romp against Newport, with sophomore Kaylin Vandomelen going the distance in the circle.

'I was really, really happy with how we got started,' said Compton, who has been handcuffed early this season by both the weather and the success of the Banks girls basketball team, which advanced to the state tournament and didn't finish its season until two weeks ago.

'All three girls are throwing well so far, and all of our lineup is looking good. If we can pick up offensively where we ended last year and carry it into this year, I'll be pretty excited.'

Banks, which has only practiced outside three times all year, will also get a boost with the impending return of starting first baseman Chelsie Bunn from illness and starting outfielder Natalie Larsen from a family vacation.

The Lady Braves are set to host Cleveland today before traveling to Cascade on Saturday for a rematch of last year's 4A state title game.

'The girls had a really good practice yesterday. You could tell they were having a lot of fun,' Compton said. 'If we can get these games in this week, that would be great.'