Banks softball opens with seven games in a six-day stretch

Another deep run in the state basketball playoffs meant that the Banks softball team got a late start on its season, but the Lady Braves are making up for lost time by playing seven games in six days, including four games against top-tier competition at the North Medford Spring Break Invitational this week.

“It’s just kind of how we had to schedule. We had to get these games in now because you can’t schedule as many (opponents) once league play starts,” Banks coach Jenny Compton said.

“The first few weeks we’ve had some really great practices, and we just got the rest of our basketball players back, so I think this will be a good week for us to see where we are.”

Banks got off to an inauspicious start with a 6-1 loss to visiting Rainier in the first game of a non-league doubleheader last Thursday, but rallied to beat the Columbians 6-2 in the nightcap, and the Braves followed with a 10-0 win over Estacada on Friday.

Monday brought a road trip to North Medford and a pair of wins over Class 6A opponents — 8-4 against Crater and 9-0 against Westview. Banks was scheduled to face 6A Aloha and 5A North Eugene on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time.

Compton said that while the Braves’ early-season schedule will certainly be challenging, she is hoping to experiment with the lineup so she can have the team clicking in time for its Cowapa League opener against Yamhill-Carlton on April 9.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think there are a lot of possibilities for the lineup, so we’ll see how things go. Even going into league I think we’ll still be figuring things out.”

Banks graduated four seniors from last year’s Class 4A state championship team and all-league catcher Aubrey Rue is gone for the year after tearing her ACL during basketball season, so there will be plenty of opportunities for younger players to step up and earn increased playing time.

“We’ve got quite a few girls who were on JV last year and some incoming freshmen, so we’ve got a lot of kids ready to fill some shoes and develop into bigger roles,” Compton said. “So far they’ve all been doing a really good job.”

The Lady Braves return six major contributors from last year’s team, but seniors Riley Gerlinger and Lexi Chung are still nursing injuries from basketball season, so Compton will be forced to use a variety of untested players in the non-league portion of the schedule, which concludes next week with games against Valley Catholic, Heppner and Willamina.

“We have a lot of kids we can use in a lot of different ways,” she said. “We have a lot of options and we want to figure out what will be the best lineup down the line, but we have a lot of kids who haven’t played a whole lot of varsity innings.

“We want to see what they’re capable of and use this pre-season time to continue to develop them. There’s the possibility that anybody could be a contributor for us this year.”

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