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Lady Braves win another title


Banks defends its state softball title and sends a four-player senior class out on the highest note imaginable

Winning a state championship is difficult enough. Defending it is another matter entirely.

The Banks softball team did just that with panache and class this spring, After cruising through an undefeated Cowapa League season and into the Class 4A state playoffs, the Braves knocked off McLoughlin 1-0 earlier this month in Corvallis to secure their second consecutive state crown.

“The first one is always the sweetest, but the second one is amazingly special,” Banks coach Jenny Compton said. “To be able to come back and defend our title and do it again is pretty special.”

Banks’ 2012 championship finally came after many near-misses for a number of Lady Braves who participate in volleyball, basketball and softball. They didn’t have to wait long for their second one.

Against the Pioneers, Kaylin VanDomelen was clutch in the pitcher’s circle, striking out 11 and giving up just one hit. Freshman superstar MaKenna Partain, who batted a staggering .574 this season with 58 hits and 60 RBIs, scored the game-winning run in the fifth inning after a throwing error during Molly Hammond’s at-bat. Partain had earlier reached base a double, her 35th extra-base hit of the year.

For the team’s four seniors — VanDomelen, Riley Gerlinger, Courtney Engeseth and Lexi Chung — the state title fulfilled on the chance to step out of the shadow of a powerhouse 2012 graduating class, and proved that this year’s senior class also had the moxie, leadership and ability to guide a team to the top.

“It was a different team this year, and to me it means more. We’ve played softball (together) since we were in sixth grade,” VanDomelen said of this year’s senior class. “It’s been that older group that just graduated and our group intermixed the whole time. So it was nice that we got to do it by ourselves.”

The state title capped a 29-2 season in which Banks was completely dominant. Behind the play of VanDomelen and Partain — who were recently named the Cowapa League and Class 4A Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively — Banks saw little competition over much of the season. After a loss to Class 6A Aloha in a spring break tournament, the Braves rattled off a 25-game win streak. Fourteen of their 29 victories this year came by 10 runs or more.

Sophomore catcher Madison Soper joined VanDomelen and Partain on the all-state first team, as did outfielders Chung and Hannah VanDomelen. Gerlinger (second base) and Hammond (first base) were named to the all-state third team, while Compton was selected as Coach of the Year.

“This is the best way to end it,” said Gerlinger, a four-year starter, following the postgame awards ceremony in Corvallis. “You can’t go out a better way.”