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Braves experiencing déjà vu

Banks girls advance in the playoffs with a come-from-behind victory over McLoughlin and a mercy-rule 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.

'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 two weeks ago with a dramatic 4-3, come-from-behind victory against McLoughlin, then posted a 12-2, mercy-rule win over Elmira in the state quarterfinals, setting up another playoff road trip to Klamath Falls, where the Lady Braves were scheduled to face Mazama.

Banks (23-4) got a scare from McLoughlin in its playoff opener on May 23, 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.

Banks took an early 2-0 lead against McLoughlin, scoring a run in the second inning on Rue's RBI single to center field, and the Braves another run in the third inning on an infield single by Melissa Masters.

McLoughlin (15-10) rallied to tie the score, however, getting a run in the top of the sixth and another in the seventh, sending the game into extra innings.

With the international tiebreaker rule going into effect in the 10th inning, each team started with a runner on second base, and the visiting Pioneers drew first blood with a run in the top of the 11th to take a 3-2 lead.

That put Banks in a do-or-die situation, and the Braves extended their season with a dramatic two-run rally. Chung started on second base and Bunn reached on an error. The senior then stole second base on the first pitch, setting up Rue's game-winning single to right field.

Marla Gooding pitched seven innings for the Braves, striking out seven and allowing two runs. Masters pitched the final four innings for Banks, giving up three hits and one run.

Kaylin Vandomelen went 3-for-5 at the plate, while Rue, Chung and Riley Gerlinger had two hits apiece.

The ho-hum attitude displayed by the Lady Braves after their come-from-behind victory was on display again when the team found itself trailing Elmira (22-3) 2-0 after the first inning on May 25.

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.'

Gooding and 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.

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.

Masters was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate and Gooding was 3-for-4, with both players driving in a pair of runs. Vandomelen and Natalie Larsen each had two hits for Banks.

The two wins set up a showdown with 10th-ranked Mazama (18-7) on its home field for the right to play in the state title game.

'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.'

A version of this article originally appeared in the May 30, 2012 edition of the News-Times.



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