Pitchers Megan Kirchem and Nena Dudley shine, as the Gladiators outscore their first seven opponents 50-3

by: JON HOUSE -      Gladstone second baseman Julia Schumaker holds a Cascade player on first base in last weeks 2-0 win over the Cougars. Cascade lost to Banks in the state final last year.The Gladstone Gladiators last week continued as one of the hottest high school softball teams in Oregon, as they rallied around junior pitchers Megan Kirchem and Nena Dudley to run their preseason record to 7-0.

Kirchem sports a 4-0; Dudley is 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA. They’ve each allowed only one earned run in Gladstone’s first seven games, as the Gladiators have outscored their first seven opponents, 50-3.

Kirchem was at the top of her game in a 2-0 win in a March 29 game at Stayton, striking out 12 and walking no one in a two-hitter. And she was in form last Friday, in a 9-1 win at Tillamook. She struck out 10 and walked no one in that game, while giving up four hits.

Dudley pitched in a March 30 game at Gladstone with Cascade, striking out 15 and walking one, while scattering five hits in a 2-0 victory. The Cougars didn’t get a runner past second base.

The Gladiators supported their pitchers with near error-free defense in last week’s games, committing just one error in the three games.

The Gladiators struggled with their bats at Stayton, striking out 13 times off of Stayton ace Lindsay Hill.

The game’s only error proved the difference at Stayton. Gladstone junior Kayla Cavitt led off the fifth inning with a walk. Kirchem followed with a sacrifice bunt. Stayton’s third baseman overthrew first base on the bunt, allowing Cavitt to score and allowing Kirchem to advance all the way to third. Dudley (2-for-4) then hammered a double, scoring courtesy runner Ashley Hale from third.

The Gladiators scored twice in the second inning of their 2-0 win over Cascade. Junior Julia Schumaker doubled down the left field line, and freshman Kat Kerr followed with a single down the line, for a 1-0 lead. Another Gladstone runner scored later in the inning on a fielder’s choice by Cavitt.

Junior Erica Ward (2-for-2) was the only Gladstone player with multiple hits. The Gladiators only struck out four times.

Gladstone was in charge all the way in Friday’s 9-1 win at Tillamook. The Gladiators put three runs on the scoreboard in the first inning and held the Cheesemakers scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when Tillamook strung three hits together and scored its only run.

Dudley starred with her bat, going 3-for-4, with a double. Ashlee Muller (2-for-4, 2 RBI), Meghan Winkle (2-for-4), Kirchem (2-for-4) and Molly Webster (1-for-1, double, 2 runs) led Gladstone at the plate, as the Gladiators stung the ball for 11 hits and struck out only two times.

“We still have some little things to work on before we get into league,” Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier said. “But things are coming along. Everyone has great attitudes....”

The Gladiators had four games scheduled over spring break in a tournament with Creswell, Sutherlin, Lebanon and Newport, March 25-26, at Newport.

Gladstone begins Tri-Valley Conference play next week, playing Estacada and Madras on the road. The Gladiators entertain North Marion on Wednesday, April 10.

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