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Braves get league title boost

Banks girls pull off a doubleheader sweep of No. 1-ranked Scappoose in league play


In many ways, this Banks softball team hardly resembles its recent predecessors.

But in some of the most important ways, these Braves are starting to look exactly like those teams, mainly in maintaining the program’s lofty standards.COURTESY PHOTO: STEPHANIE PARTAIN
 - Banks softball players MaKenna Partain, Alyssa Rogers, Mary Schorn, Emma McCourt and Karlie Gerlinger (from left) meet at the pitcher's circle last Friday against Scappoose.

A Banks squad that is still coming together in many ways drew a tough task last Friday in hosting No. 1-ranked Scappoose in one big showdown of a Cowapa League doubleheader.

Getting contributions from across the roster, the sixth-ranked Braves took the first game 4-1 and then rallied for a thrilling 5-4 victory in the nightcap to seize control of the conference race. With the two positive results, Banks ran its win streak to eight games and moved to 10-2 overall and 6-0 in league.

Impressively, the team’s only losses so far this spring have come to Gladstone, which became the new No. 1 in the OSAA’s Class 4A power rankings, and No. 2 McLoughlin, also the two-time reigning state champion. Banks moved up to fourth, one spot behind Scappoose.

“We’re really excited because we knew if we could sweep them at this doubleheader that the schedule gets a whole lot easier for us, because our goal coming out was to ... win our league and then go from there,” Braves head coach James Wise said.

“Having them this early into the season and it being a doubleheader, we were a little nervous coming in because we didn’t know exactly what our identity was going to be this year because we have a lot of younger players in the mix. But two wins — it’s actually kind of weight off of our shoulders.”

This team’s identity is rapidly turning into one of a contender, especially if Banks can keep getting production from throughout its lineup.

COURTESY PHOTO: STEPHANIE PARTAIN
 - Banks junior Karlie Gerlinger (right) shares a laugh with a teammate in the dugout during last Friday's doubleheader.
In the second game, it was the bottom of the order that deserved great credit for the victory. Banks trailed 4-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, but Katie Ragsdale got the rally started when she led off with a double, her second hit of the game. Mackenzie Davis moved Ragsdale to third by laying down a bunt, and then she kept an out off of the board by beating the throw to first. Karlie Gerlinger also got on to load the bases.

That set the table for No. 1 hitter MaKenna Partain, who called the day “a big confidence booster, especially for all of our young girls.” She got jammed up at the plate mostly in the first contest, but she’s a player who can be kept in check only for so long. This time, Partain delivered with a clutch two-RBI line drive to left-center to deliver the walk-off victory for Banks.

“I don’t really ever get nervous, so there wasn’t really a lot going through my head,” Partain said. “I wasn’t going to get fooled by any pitches. I know she tried to throw me a change-up a couple times and I was like ... ‘That’s not the pitch I want.’

“I was very selective about what pitch I wanted, and then she threw it, and I just hit it.”

Partain also played a notable role in the first game, but it came on the field instead of at the plate. The Braves tried to throw off the Indians by starting Partain in the circle. The senior pitched here and there her freshman year but has been Banks’ everyday shortstop throughout her career.

She started testing the waters with some innings a little bit earlier this season. After the experiment went well, Wise penciled Partain in to start the first game against Scappoose.

“I think that was definitely a shocker to them to see me out there,” Partain said.

She was ready to go, too. She stepped up with a complete game two-hitter in which she struck out five, allowing a single run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly. The defense also helped her out a couple times, Wise said, but that seemed to fire the team up even more.

The Braves’ 2-3-4 batters — Keegan Wise, Mary Schorn and Shakayla Snyder — played considerable roles, generating three of the team’s four runs. They gave Partain some quick support with two scores in the bottom of the first.

After reaching base, Wise stole second and Schorn and Snyder followed with consecutive RBI hits to put those two runs on the board.

The Braves added single tallies in the third and fourth innings, giving Partain some insurance. Her stint in the circle allowed the Braves to save Emma McCourt and Michaela Shaw, who came off the bench in the fifth to provide a spark, for the second game.

Last Friday’s games continued a start that has gone about as well as any Banks softball fan could have hoped for.

Results of Tuesday’s game at Astoria were unavailable at press deadline. The Braves head to a doubleheader at Seaside on Friday, looking forward to the rest of the season.

“I think if we stay the course and keep practicing like we have and just keep working hard for it,” Wise said, “I think these girls will be surprised come end of May, June, where we could really be at.”