Senior Courtney Engeseth sends Banks back to the state finals with a walk-off single in the 10th inning against Newport

The scenario was any young ballplayer’s dream — tie game, extra innings, two outs, two strikes.

Oh, and a berth in the state championship game on the line.

That was the situation in which Courtney Engeseth found herself last Tuesday, during Banks’ Class 4A state semifinal game against Newport. After playing almost 10 innings, neither the Braves nor the Cubs could get on the scoreboard and stake their claim to a spot in Saturday’s championship game in Corvallis.

In her three previous at-bats against Newport pitcher Kristin Cochran, Engeseth had been unsuccessful in reaching base. But in the bottom of the 10th, after taking two strikes and fouling off the third pitch of her fourth plate appearance, Engeseth played the heroine.

“I wanted it to be kind of up to me,” Engeseth said after the game. “Because, I mean, everyone dreams of that, but it happening was crazy.”

On the next pitch, the Banks senior third baseman got the pitch she wanted and smacked the ball back up the middle for a walk-off single, scoring JoJo Wren from second base for a 1-0 victory that propelled the Lady Braves back into the state title contest for the third time in four seasons.

“I knew it was going outside,” Engeseth said about the pitch she got from Cochran. “I usually try to hit more to the right side to score the person, and it just happened to fall right in place.”

In the pitcher’s circle, Kaylin VanDomelen pitched 10 dominant innings for Banks, playing a large role in preserving the shutout until her teammates could generate the winning run. The Braves’ senior ace gave up just one hit all game and struck out 15.

Noting that the contest was the last home game for the team’s four seniors, VanDomelen was pleased with the role her classmate played in the victory.

“To have Courtney get the game-winning hit, I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” VanDomelen said.

In Newport (25-4), champion of the Oregon West Conference, Banks faced one of its most challenging opponents of the season. Prior to last Tuesday, the Braves had not won a game by fewer than three runs, they had gone to extra innings just once — a 3-0 victory in eight innings against eventual Class 3A state champion Rainier on May 8 — and they had won 27 games by an average of 9.15 runs.

But the Braves did not wilt in their closest contest of the season, and neither did VanDomelen.

“It was kind of nice, because we’ve been to so many state tournaments that you kind of rely on that experience,” VanDomelen noted. “I wanted to do it for my teammates. Regardless of how awful it was, they’ve been there me and I wanted to do the same thing for them.”

Prior to the 10th inning, Banks threatened on several occasions but could not break through.

In the second, Madison Soper led off by knocking a double along the left field line. Molly Hammond’s sacrifice bunt moved Wren, who replaced Soper as a courtesy runner, to third base and put the go-ahead run 60 feet from home plate.

But then the Cubs made one of several alert defensive plays that kept them in the game throughout. Megan Bunn hit a flyout to Newport right fielder Jeana Laverdure, whose throw to catcher Emma Paranto was dead on, allowing Paranto to tag out Wren at home for the double play.

And one inning later, Paranto threw out Riley Gerlinger — who had reached base by bunting and beating out the throw to first — trying to steal second.

Banks almost sealed the game in the seventh, when VanDomelen walked and MaKenna Partain bunted for a single, putting two Braves on base with no outs. After Soper popped up to Paranto and Hammond struck out, VanDomelen stole third and Partain took second, but then Bunn’s pop-up also landed in Paranto’s mitt, sending the game to extra innings.

After the seventh inning, neither team put up much of a threat until the 10th, when the international tiebreaker rule — where a player for the offensive team automatically starts at second base — came into effect. To lead off, Newport’s Paranto bunted but could not reach base ahead of the throw for the first out.

Gerlinger, Banks’ senior second baseman who had been covering first base, immediately threw to Partain at third in an attempt to tag out Jasmine Wagner, the Cub who had started the inning at second base. Wagner was initially called out, but the officiating crew gathered for a discussion and reversed the call, turning Wagner into one of the best scoring opportunities for Newport during the entire game.

But thanks to VanDomelen, the call reversal did not matter.

The game was part of an absolutely dominant playoffs series for the North Dakota-bound pitcher. In four playoff contests, she gave up just seven hits — with five coming in the first-round game against North Marion — and struck out 48 in 31 innings.

With Wagner looming on third base and one out, VanDomelen proceeded to strike out Cochran swinging, and after she grazed Rachel Johnson with a pitch, she struck out Megan Schones to give her team a shot at the win.

And then Engeseth delivered.

“We were knocking on the door the whole game,” Banks coach Jenny Compton said. “And it was just like something just wouldn’t quite click quite yet, and then finally we got something.”

Something that sent them back to Corvallis for a shot at another title.

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