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Partain's home runs help lift Banks softball past Scappoose in 4A state semis

Braves will tangle with McLoughin in Saturday's championship final

The Braves keep writing a similar story each year, just with slightly different twists.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE - Banks gets fired up during their 7-3 win over Scappoose Tuesday

The Banks softball team is returning to the Class 4A state final once again – a game it reached in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015. This time the Braves knocked off their archrivals to do it, though, and on the road to boot. Banks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning in Tuesday’s state semifinal game at Scappoose and never looked back in a 7-3 victory against the Indians.

News-Times photos: Kent Frasure

That means Banks gets another date with destiny on Saturday. The third-seeded Braves will square off against No. 1 McLoughlin at 1 p.m. at the OSU Softball Complex.

As far as Tuesday’s semifinal went, there were not a whole lot of secrets between the two teams, as the Cowapa League rivals had met up three times already in conference play. Banks swept a doubleheader on April 22, but Scappoose answered with a wild 17-10 win on May 10.

“I think we knew that the first two games were the true identity, when we played against Scappoose, that this is a team we could beat if we just played a complete game,” Braves head coach James Wise said. “The kind of debacle that we had when we were here, it took our worst and their best to beat us, and that’s the mentality that we had coming into this game.”

MaKenna Partain certainly played a complete game for Banks. The senior shortstop played a major role in the outcome, batting 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBIs.

She was far from the only one though. A number of teammates produced big hits, and a couple of plucky freshmen also played key roles. Kaylin Hernandez – who did not make an appearance during any of the three league contests against Scappoose – got the surprise start in the circle against the No. 2 Indians and Michaela Shaw came on midway through to finish off the game.

The two pitchers combined for a five-hitter and by and large kept the Indians’ potent offense in check.

Playing in a state semifinal for a fourth consecutive season, Partain was ready to go right away, hitting a double off Scappoose starter Nicole Dougherty before scoring on Mary Schorn’s RBI base hit to center field. A few at-bats later, Katie Ragsdale came up with a big double that brought home Schorn and Hannah McCourt.

“I play better when I am calm,” Partain said of her approach. “That’s the biggest thing for me, and so I try to put that on my girls too, which I think we all did. We came in really calm. Our freshmen pitchers threw amazing. That was awesome. That was clutch.

“I was just calm and focused and ready to do it. I wanted to get back to the championship.”

Going up 3-0 in the first was surely nice, but it wasn’t likely to be enough. After all, the Braves (22-3) scored a couple of times in the first inning during that 17-10 setback.

Fortunately for Banks, there would be more. The team didn’t have to wait long for its fourth run, as Partain launched a solo shot to right-center in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Scappoose (24-5) did pull a run back in the bottom half, when Hannah Galey scored on Kendal Bailey’s sacrifice bunt. Galey, who actually scored all three of the Indians’ runs, cut it to 4-2 with a solo home run of her own in the fourth. Then, after Sage Harrison singled, Shaw replaced Hernandez in the circle. She would give up just one run the rest of the way.

And Partain had one more big trick up her sleeve, as she so often seems to. In the sixth, she bombed a three-run home run – this time off of Bailey – over the fence in center field to stake Banks to a 7-2 lead.

“The first two playoff games, she kind of was quiet, and I knew that it was just a matter of time that she would step up there and we would see the MaKenna that we’re all used to seeing,” Wise said, adding that Partain’s second home run “sealed the deal” and took a lot of pressure off Shaw.

Galey doubled and scored her third and final run of the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the sixth, but Shaw induced three consecutive Indians batters into flyouts to close out the seventh and put Banks back in the state championship game.

That contest is a rematch pitting the two current titans of Class 4A. The Braves won back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013, knocking off the Pioneers in the championship game in the latter year. McLoughlin picked up championships in 2014 and last year, when it topped Banks 4-0 in the final.

So this will be a rubber match of sorts, with each team having beaten the other once in a final. The Pioneers have gone 25-5 this season, knocking off Hidden Valley (11-1), Douglas (11-2) and No. 4 Gladstone (3-2) in the state playoffs.

The Pioneers also hold a 5-4 win over Banks from April 2.

If history winds up repeating itself, it could do so in the Braves’ favor. Last year Banks topped McLoughlin during an early-season game played in Yamhill, only to watch the Pioneers flip that result to win the state championship.

At the time Partain was interviewed post-game for this story, she didn’t yet know whether her Braves would be playing Gladstone or McLoughlin on Saturday, but she did note that Banks had lost to both teams earlier this year.

“I think just realizing that we’re a way different team than we were when we played them is something that’s going to be big for us and knowing that we can do it,” she said. “We all just need to do our parts and contribute, because it’s definitely a team effort from all of us and that’s when we play our best.”