The Gladiators handle La Salle, get by North Marion

Competing in one of the tougher high school softball leagues in the state, the Gladstone Gladiators put two more Tri-Valley Conference games in the win column last week, and they closed out the week ranked second in the state — behind Banks (10-2) — in the OSAA Class 4A rankings.

Madras (11-4, 3-1) and Molalla (8-3, 3-0) finished last week ranked fourth and tenth respectively in the rankings.

The Gladiators (14-1, 3-1) cruised by 16th-ranked La Salle (5-4, 1-2) last Friday, winning 8-0. But they had their hands full earlier in the week, when they had to go to eight innings to top 13th-ranked North Marion (9-5, 1-3), 3-2.

“We put the ball in play and we pitched much better,” Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier said, following last Friday’s win over the Falcons.

La Salle pitcher Loryn Williams struck out Gladstone batters nine times, but the Gladiators reached her for 10 hits, and Williams issued nine free passes.

Meanwhile Gladstone pitchers Megan Kirchem and Nena Dudley took care of business, teaming up to throw a one-hitter. La Salle’s only hit was a lead-off double by Shannon Stockfleth in the bottom of the sixth.

Kirchem pitched 6-1/3 innings, striking out 11, walking one and giving up the one hit.

La Salle’s only threat came in the sixth. After Stockfleth’s double, she advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. But the next batter hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Gladiators scored their runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Pitcher control problems helped the Gladiators get on board in the fourth. Julia Schumaker (2-for-3) and Meghan Winkle both reached as hit batsmen and Kat Kerr drew a full-count walk to load the bases. Erica Ward brought one run round with a groundout, and Kerr darted home on a wild pitch.

Kirchem (2-for-4) led off the fifth with single, advanced on a groundout and scored on a base hit by Schumaker. Following another groundout, Winkle brought Schumaker in with a single up the middle.

Molly Webster, Kirchem, Ashlee Muller and Schumaker all hit safely in a four-run sixth inning. The runs scored on Muller and Schumaker’s hits, a sacrifice fly by Winkle, and a walk by Kerr.

Gladstone struggled to get timely hitting and the Gladiators kicked the ball around in the April 10 extra-inning win over North Marion.

The Gladiators hammered the ball for 11 hits, but they left no fewer than 14 baserunners stranded. And they committed four errors. Both of North Marion’s runs were unearned.

North Marion pitcher Katlin Wompole (2 strikeouts, 6 walks) began to tire in the later innings, and that played a part in the Gladiator victory.

With two down in the bottom of the eighth and the score tied at 2-2, Nena Dudley drew a full-count walk. Megan Kirchem reached on an infield single, and Ashlee Muller drew a full-count walk to load the bass. Julia Schumaker walked on four straight pitches, forcing in the winning run.

Gladstone scored the game’s first run with two down in the third stanza. Kirchem, Muller and Kerr all got base hits in the inning, with Kerr’s two-out single to right driving in the run.

North Marion answered in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of a walk and two Gladstone errors to score one unearned run.

Muller led off the fifth with a double and scored on an overthrow following a bunt by Schumaker, making it a 2-1 ball game.

The Huskies kept the game alive in the top of the seventh, scoring their second run on a base hit, a sacrifice bunt, an error, and a run-scoring sacrifice fly.

Sophomore third baseman Melisa Campos was huge on defense for the Gladiators. She made an error that resulted in a North Marion run, but she more than made up for it, with four putouts and four assists.

Campos turned two double plays that proved pivotal. In the fourth inning, the Huskies had runners at second and third with one out, when Campos snagged a line drive and tagged the runner headed home to end the inning. And in the top of the eighth, Campos hauled in a popped up bunt and threw to Schumaker covering first to complete a double play.

Kirchem (3-for-4), Muller (3-for-4) and Kerr (2-for-4) led Gladstone at the plate.

Dudley and Kirchem both took a turn in the circle, combining for five strikeouts, while walking six batters and giving up three hits.

“It was a tough game,” Mortier said. “We didn’t play well. We got lucky.”

The Gladiators are back in action on Thursday, when they entertain Estacada (1-10, 0-4). They entertain Madras at 4:30 p.m. next Tuesday. The White Buffaloes dealt the Gladiators their only loss of the season in an April 5 game at Madras.

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