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Lady Braves roll to victories over two small-school powers

A lot of time off proved to be of little problem for the Banks softball team on Saturday.

Heading into the weekend — other than a 17-0 blowout of Valley Catholic on April 2 — the Lady Braves had been idle since the Tuesday of spring break. They were back in action on Saturday against small-school powers Willamina and Heppner/Ione, showing relatively little rust in two victories.

Banks (8-2 overall) overcame a bit of a slow start in the first game, against reigning Class 2A/1A state champion Heppner/Ione, to post a 6-0 victory, and then capped the day with a 10-0 defeat of Class 3A Willamina. Both opponents were ranked in the Top 10 of their respective divisions as of Tuesday.

“It was good seeing different people that we haven’t seen before, and so it gave us a new look on how to make our defense better and our offense, and it helped us a lot,” said freshman MaKenna Partain, who pitched the second contest for Banks.

In the first game of the day, the Braves did not put any runs on the Mustangs until the fourth inning, when they finally scored two. They added another in the fifth, and the final three in the sixth.

In that fourth inning, Kaylin VanDomelen got on base with a bunt and Partain was walked to set up the scoring. VanDomelen scored what proved to be the winning run on Megan Bunn’s RBI base hit and then Partain crossed home plate on a passed ball.

In the fifth, after getting on base, Riley Gerlinger was sacrifice bunted to second and scored on Hannah VanDomelen’s RBI triple along the left field line. One inning later, Partain drew another walk, Madison Soper got a hit, and Courtney Engeseth brought them both home with an RBI double.

“Really, I think that we had contributions throughout the lineup, which I think is really important to be able to do that,” Banks coach Jenny Compton said.

Despite struggling to find the strike zone early against the Mustangs, Kaylin VanDomelen threw a complete game no-hitter for Banks, striking out 14, walking four and hitting one batter in seven innings of work.

“His strike zone was about the size of a stamp,” Compton recalled about the umpire. “It was tiny.”

For her part, VanDomelen chalked up the challenging outing to a learning experience.

“It was a little rough of a start. It was difficult to kind of gauge where the strike zone was, but that’s one thing that pitching is,” VanDomelen said. “So I was glad that I got the experience to overcome that little bump in the road. That’s never fun, but it’s nice to know that I can only control what I can control, and that was kind of the lesson of (Saturday) morning.”

Unlike the first game, Banks jumped on Willamina early, getting three runs in the first inning and two more in the second to build an insurmountable lead. The Braves capped the game with a five-run outburst in the sixth.

The game-winner ocurred when Bunn drew a bases-loaded walk to score Lexi Chung. Engeseth’s two-RBI single to drive in Kaylin VanDomelen and Partain accounted for the other two runs in the first.

“I think with the Willamina score, even though it wound up being 10-0, it could easily have been closer because the girl that started pitching against us in the second game, she’d already pitched the whole first game with Heppner,” Compton observed.

As with the first game, multiple players contributed against the Bulldogs, but perhaps none to the degree of Partain. The freshman had two triples, a double and a single in the contest, in addition to her pitching duties.

“It’s pretty good,” Partain said after the game. “Actually, the catcher (Soper) is my cousin, so we work really well together, and we’re on the same summer ball team. And so she called a lot of good pitches. It just seemed to work.”

Partain’s only real trouble came in the fourth inning, when Willamina loaded the bases. But with two outs, she was able to induce a grounder to Gerlinger, whose throw to first ended the threat.

“She had to cover some ground to get there, but she did a really good job,” Compton said about her senior second baseman. “It was a routine ball for her. She makes them look easy.”

The Saturday victories wrapped up the Braves’ nonleague schedule. Banks opened Cowapa League play yesterday against Yamhill-Carlton (after press deadline). Next up, the Braves are scheduled to play a doubleheader at Scappoose on Friday at 4 p.m.

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