Emily Lauder squeezes in the game-winner as Putnam makes it 17 in a row

CLACKAMAS - The Northwest Oregon Conference champion Rex Putnam Kingsmen continued on track for one of their best softball seasons in years, defeating Midwestern Conference champion Churchill 3-2 in a Class 5A first-round state playoff game played May 26 at Hood View Park.

It was the 17th consecutive win for Putnam and the hard-fought win advanced the fifth-ranked Kingsmen (22-4, 14-0) to a state quarterfinal game at fourth-ranked Pendleton (15-10).

The last time Putnam advanced as far as the quarterfinals was in 2007, when the Kingsmen dropped their quarterfinal game to Jesuit, 5-2.

'The girls have come together as a unit, and they're peaking at the right time,' said Putnam coach Tiffany Strnad. 'We, as a coaching staff, are very proud of them.'

Last week's 3-2 win over the Churchill Lancers was a nailbiter.

Putnam went up 1-0 in bottom of the first. Megan Malvick drew a leadoff walk, advanced to third on two passed balls, and scored with two down on Jill Smith's single to left.

The 1-0 lead stood up through the first five innings. But the Kingsmen blinked in the top of the sixth, relinquishing their lead when they gave up two unearned runs on two errors and two base hits.

Battling to the end, the Kingsmen answered, manufacturing two runs - including the game-winner - in the bottom of the sixth.

Junior Breann Morrison got things started when she drew a one-out walk.

Senior Jill Smith and junior Missy Bottinelli singled, bringing around courtesy runner Brooke Baker.

Junior Emily Lauder followed with a picture-perfect suicide squeeze bunt, plating Smith for the game-winner.

The Kingsmen then sent the visitors down in order in the top of the seventh, with Morrison striking out the final batter to end the game.

Morrison was sharp on the mound, striking out seven and walking no one in a two-hitter.

Except for the two sixth-inning errors, the Kingsmen supported Morrison with mistake-free defense.

The Kingsmen reached Churchill pitcher Danielle Duman (3 strikeouts, 2 walks) for five hits.

'We came out strong and had a little lapse, but the kids battled back,' said Strnad. 'They came together and played as a team. It was a great battle all the way to the end.'

With the loss, the Lancers finished with an overall record of 17-10, after going 12-2 in the Midwestern Conference.

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