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Silent bats and the long ball sink Glads in semis


Robert, McLoughlin blank Gladstone 6-0 in 4A semifinals

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - McLoughlin pitcher Colette RobertGLADSTONE — One of the best softball teams ever to play for Gladstone High School came up a game short of reaching the championship final of the 2013 Class 4A high school softball championships.

The top-ranked Gladiators struggled to hit the ball off of McLoughlin ace Colette Robert, and the result was a 6-0 loss to the visiting Pioneers in a May 28 semifinal at Gladstone. Robert struck out six, walked one and allowed just one hit in a complete game.

It was only the second time this season that the Gladiators had been shut out. Gladstone lost a Tri-Valley Conference league game at Madras 3-0 on April 5. The Gladiators entered last week’s semifinal with the fourth-ranked Pioneers averaging 7.3 runs a game.

Robert was sharp, allowing only three balls to be hit out of the infield. Ashlee Muller’s bloop single to right-center in the bottom of the fourth was Gladstone’s only hit.

“That’s softball,” said Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier. “Sometimes you just can’t get a hit. It happens.”

Mortier said that Robert painted the outside of the plate with many of her pitches, and his Gladiators failed to adjust.

Mortier added, “These girls have nothing to be ashamed of. They’ve had a great year. Twenty-six wins is the most ever for Gladstone softball.... This is a great group of young ladies — the best group I’ve ever worked with. They worked hard, and they were team-oriented. They built their success around two outstanding pitchers, a luxury most teams don’t have.”

It was a truly amazing season for Gladstone. Besides going 26-4 and setting a school record for most wins in a season, the Gladiators were ranked the top team in the state for most of the season and they advanced to the semifinals for only the third time in school history. No Gladstone team has ever reached a state final.

The old school record for most wins was 24, set by a Gladstone team that went 24-3 and lost to Marist in the semifinals in 2009. Gladstone also lost to Marist in the semifinals in 2008. Marist went on to win the state championship both years.

Last week’s semifinal was also an historic game for McLoughlin. The Pioneers’ only other appearance in a semifinal was in 2006, when they lost to Mazama.

“This means everything,” McLoughlin senior co-captain Cheyenne Kessler said, following last week’s shutout of Gladstone. “We played Banks in the first round last year and lost in 11 innings, and they went on to win state. We came back this year with nine seniors, and we were ready to go.”

Robert and Kessler were offensive heroines for McLoughlin.

The Pioneers struck early, scoring two runs in the first inning. Senior outfielder Kariss Carrillo drew a leadoff walk on five pitches, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Robert then stepped to the plate and hit a long fly ball that was headed for the fence in left-center. Gladstone centerfielder Molly Webster chased the ball down and got a glove on it, but it deflected off of her glove and went over the fence, for a two-run home run, Robert’s second of the 2013 season.

“I didn’t see it go out,” Robert said. “I was just watching my base coach.... When [I learned it went out] I was like, ‘This is fantastic,’ because we do best when we jump on a team early.”

McLoughlin took advantage of a rare Gladstone defensive miscue to put a third run on the scoreboard in the third inning. Robert reached on a base hit and scored with two down, when a Gladiator outfielder missed the cutoff on Megan Reed’s base hit up the middle.

The 3-0 lead stood up until the top of the sixth, when the Pioneers rallied for three hits and three runs to put the game on ice. McLoughlin senior infielder Karli Cortez got things started when she singled to left. Reed beat out an infield single, and Kessler followed with a one-out, three-run home run over the left-field fence, her third round-tripper of the year.

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Gladstone pitcher Nena DudleyGladstone starting pitcher Nena Dudley, struck out six, walked one and allowed six hits and five earned runs in 5-1/3 innings of work. Reliever Megan Kirchem (0 strikeouts, 0 walks) faced five batters, allowing one hit, and leaving no runners on base.

Robert, who has played summer ball with Dudley for the past two seasons, says she gave this advice to her teammates about Dudley prior to the semifinal game: “I told them I know she likes to live on the outside [of the plate] and she’s a Division I pitcher. But I also told them I knew we could hit off of her.”

Gladstone had only three baserunners in the game. Sophomore designated player Andra Breshears reached on a sharply hit ball that deflected off McLoughlin’s first baseman’s glove with two down in the second. But the next batter grounded out to Robert to end that inning.

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - McLoughlin pitcher Colette Robert teamed up with first baseman Makayla Kelly (with ball) to keep Gladstone junior outfielder Erica Ward close to first base in the third inning of last weeks semifinal. Ward was one of only three Gladstone players to reach base in a 6-0 loss.Gladstone junior outfielder Erica Ward reached on a walk to lead off the third. Ward advanced on a passed ball and a groundout. But Robert sent the next batter down swinging to retire the side.

Gladstone senior catcher Ashlee Muller singled to lead off the fourth frame. But the side was retired on a flyout to center, a groundout to shortstop and a pop up to first.

Kessler said she was not at all surprised with the Pioneers’ success this year.

“This whole group knows what it’s like to win,” she said. “We won state titles in Little League as majors [sixth and seventh grade] and Juniors [eighth and ninth grade] and it’s been our goal to do it as our high school team.”

“I grew up with these seniors,” said Robert. “So it makes me feel really good [to help get them to the championship game]. I’m excited that I could lead them there.”

The Pioneers dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Banks in Saturday’s state final, and they finished the year with an overall record of 24-7.

Gladstone should be tough in softball again next year, with Muller the only player on this year’s roster loss to graduation.

“We’ll miss Ashlee; but we’ll find a replacement, and I think we’re going to be right back in it next year,” Mortier said. “We’ll start back up lifting weights in November. I think it’s going to be another fun year.”

“I’m really proud of every one of our girls,” Muller said. “We all worked really hard. We had June 1st in mind at every game we played, and we nearly got there. It hurts that we didn’t make it. But now that they’ve gotten so close, they know what it takes [to get to the championship game], and I think they’ll do it next year....

“It just makes me so sad that I won’t get to play with these girls again.”

Muller said she plans to continue playing softball next spring, as a catcher for Mt. Hood Community College.

Players starting for the Gladiators in last week’s semifinal included: Muller; juniors Meghan Winkle (first base), Dudley (pitcher), Julia Schumaker (second base), Kirchem (shortstop) and Ward (right field); sophomores Webster (centerfield), Andra Breshears (designated player) and Melissa Campos (third base); and freshman Kat Kerr (left field).

The Gladiators were a hitting machine most of the 2013 season. They had a .340 team batting average on the season, with five players hitting better than .390.

Leading hitters were: Dudley (.442, 32 runs, 22 RBI), Muller (.422, 34 RBI, 26 runs), Kirchem (.418, 21 RBI), Schumaker (.417, 31 runs, 20 RBI) and Breshears (.391).

Muller was the leader in extra-base hits, with 16 doubles and two home runs. Schumaker hit 10 doubles and three triples; Dudley hit 10 doubles and two triples.

Dudley pitched 95-1/3 innings, with 167 strikeouts, 27 walks and a 0.88 ERA; Kirchem pitched 97-1/3 innings with 127 strikeouts, 17 walks and a 0.43 ERA. Both pitchers finished with 13-2 win-loss records.