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Valiants revel in Gladiator challenge

Valley Catholic benefits from a tough non-league test against Gladstone
by: MILES VANCE, DIAMOND GIRLS — Valley Catholic senior first baseman Emily Becker (above) scoops up a Gladstone bunt during her team’s 2-1 10-inning non-league home loss to the Gladiators last Wednesday afternoon.

BEAVERTON - No one likes to lose.

Least of all a top-notch softball team such as the defending Class 3A state champion Valley Catholic Valiants.

That said, Valley Catholic (15-1) - the top-ranked Class 3A team in the state - wasn't all that upset with its 2-1 10-inning loss to Gladstone (12-2) last Wednesday afternoon at Valley Catholic High School.

The loss was VC's first of the 2008 season and snapped a 14-game winning streak, but it also gave the Valiants invaluable experience against another strong team (Gladstone is the state's ninth-ranked Class 4A team) and another strong pitcher.

'We still have some bloopers we need to fix, like every team does, but I'm actually kind of glad we got this loss because it just shows we need to keep our heads up and deal with other teams,' said senior catcher Tara Baglai, the reigning Class 3A Player of the Year. 'We can't just think we're going to win every single game.'

'It's really nice to actually play another tough team,' said senior first baseman Emily Becker, who had two of her team's seven hits against the Gladiators. 'We don't actually see that many pitchers like that. … It's really nice to face that so when we face it (again), we've had some more cuts.'

'To have a loss against a team like that, it's nothing to be ashamed of if you come away learning something,' added Valley Catholic coach Roni Illias. 'I know they're not feeling real good about losing, but actually, a loss once in a while is good. This was good. Everything about this game was good for us.'

The Valiants spent most of the game defusing Gladstone scoring threats, and did so effectively. VC pitcher Sami

Picken allowed 11 hits in the game, including three doubles, but teamed with her defense to keep the Gladiators scoreless until the top of the sixth inning.

Notably, Picken and the Valiants stranded two runners in the first inning, two more in the third and one in the fifth. Then, in the sixth, Tamara Feb rocked a one-out double to right field, and teammate Kate Santos followed with a double of her own, this one deep into left field, to plate Feb with the game's first run.

But the Valiants, trailing for one of the first times all year,

answered in their half of the inning. Maggie Hastreiter got things started with a line-drive single to left field, took second on Jill Suratt's bunt and scored when Baglai doubled into right-center field to tie the game at 1-1.

'That's the first time someone's scored first on us,' Becker said. 'It's nice to know that our team can come back if we're down.'

Picken stranded another Gladstone base runner in the eighth inning, and then it seemed that Valley Catholic would secure victory in the bottom of the ninth. There, Chelsea Lambert stroked a one-out single to left field, and with two outs, Carly Verboort singled through the left side of the infield. But Gladiator pitcher Brittany Wagner (seven hits, no walks and five strikeouts) got Hana Wright on a grounder to second and the game advanced to the 10th inning and the International Tiebreaker.

There, with Gladstone's Robin Greer starting at second base, the Gladiators bunted her to third and she scored when Carissa Santos hit a grounder to Hastreiter at second base.

In its half of the 10th, with Wright starting at second and Valerie Barry at the plate, Barry missed a bunt attempt and Feb, the Gladstone catcher, fired to second base to pick off Wright. Barry then popped to second and Hastreiter grounded back to the pitcher to end the game.

'They're a great team,' Baglai said. 'It gave us a lot of practice on the field to know what situations we need to work on.'

'It was some good competition,' Illias said. 'It was uncharacteristic that we just didn't hit the ball very well, but you learn something out of that kind of game as well.'

'Our team is tough. We'll get far as long as we keep working together,' Becker added.

Becker went 2-for-4 to pace her team while other hits came from Hastreiter, Baglai, Lambert, Picken and Verboort. For Gladstone, Carissa Santos and Feb had two hits each.