The Gladiators up their record to 19-1 with wins over Madras, La Salle and North Marion

Gladstone High School’s second-ranked softball team continued to take care of business last week, upping its season record to 19-1 with Tri-Valley Conference league wins over Madras (3-1), North Marion (7-0) and cross-town rival La Salle (3-1).

The Gladiators (8-1) entered play this week tied with fourth-ranked Molalla (13-4, 8-1), in first place in the TVC standings, with six league games remaining.

“I’m not surprised [with our success],” said Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier. “Maybe I didn’t expect us to do as well as we’ve done, but with the group we had coming back, I expected us to do well. And I thought we’d have a shot at the league title. I’m very pleased with what we’ve done so far.”

The Gladiators staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth to eke out their 3-1 come-from-behind win over fourth-ranked Madras on April 23, avenging their only loss on the 2013 season. The White Buffaloes had defeated Gladstone 3-0 in an April 5 game at Madras.

In last week’s game, it appeared that the Gladiators might lose to Madras a second time, as Madras went up 1-0 on a solo home run by Sarah Brown in the top of the sixth.

And things appeared grim in the bottom of the sixth, when the Gladiators were still scoreless and had two outs against them.

Enter Kat Kerr. The Gladstone freshman talent stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with two down and the bases loaded and laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that plated junior pitcher Nena Dudley from third, tying the score at 1-1.

“Nena was telling me, ‘Have Kat bunt. I can score [on a bunt],’” said Mortier, who was coaching third base. “They were playing back, so I thought it might work.”

As it turned out, the White Buffaloes had no play on the bunt, which Kerr laid down just a few feet in front of home plate.

The run fired up the Gladiators, and junior Meghan Winkle followed with a bloop single to left field that scored two more runs, one of them on a fielding error.

The White Buffaloes got a runner on with one down in the seventh, but junior shortstop Megan Kirchem silenced that threat, handling a line drive and making the play at first for a game-ending double play.

Defense was huge for the Gladiators throughout the game, as they supported Dudley (9 strikeouts, 2 hits, 5 walks) with error-free defensive play.

Mortier said that junior second baseman Julia Schumaker made “a great stop” in the third inning, when she hustled to make a catch behind first base. And he said that Kirchem had a key put out following Brown’s sixth-inning home run, when she back-handed a ball hit deep in the hole and made the play at first in time for an out.

“That ball goes through and it probably goes for extra bases and gives them more momentum,” Mortier said.

The Gladiators reached Madras pitcher Jamie Moe (4 strikeouts, one walk) for six hits.

Gladstone had loaded the base in the sixth on a walk by Molly Webster, base hits by Dudley and Kirchem, and a fielder’s choice, where the White Buffaloes got the force out at the plate on a grounder hit to Moe.

“It was an exciting game,” Mortier said. “We were glad to get out of it with a win. We played really good defense, and when the girl hit the home run, there was no hanging heads. The kids got after it.”

The Gladiators crushed the ball for 13 hits and they played error-free ball behind Kirchem (6 strikeouts, 3 walks, 2 hits) in last week’s 7-0 shutout of North Marion.

The Gladiators only struck out twice and they scored in four different innings as they put the ball in play often.

Heading up the hitting barrage were Dudley (3-for-4, one double, 3 runs scored), Schumaker (3-for-4, 2-run double), Andra Breshears (2-for-3, RBI-single) and Molly Webster (2-for-3, RBI-single).

Dudley threw a one-hitter in last week’s 3-1 win over La Salle, striking out 10 and walking one.

Both teams scored early. La Salle scored it’s only run in the top of the first. Makenzie Cook walked, advanced to third on a sacrifice by Averi Johnson and a groundout by Paige Bell, and scored on a passed ball.

Gladstone answered with two outs in the bottom of the first. Ashlee Muller singled and stole second; Schumaker singled; Kat Kerr walked to load the bases; and Breshears plated Muller with a base hit to left.

The Gladiators scored two more runs with two down in the third. Kirchem singled, advanced to second on a groundout by Muller, and scored the game-winner following an error on an infield single by Schumaker (2-for-2). Kerr added an insurance tally, scoring Schumaker from second on a single to right.

The Gladiators reached La Salle pitcher Loryn Williams (4 strikeouts, 2 walks, one hit batter) for eight hits. Williams was tough in the circle after the third inning, allowing the Gladiators just one hit the rest of the way.

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