After two more rainouts last week, Banks' girls are eager to begin their Cowapa title defense
by: Chase Allgood Banks senior Natalie Larsen lays down a squeeze bunt during last Friday’s game against Scappoose. The Lady Braves were leading when the game was stopped due to heavy rain, and it is scheduled to be made up today.

With Oregon's spring weather being as fickle as ever, raining out games and forcing practices indoors, many prep softball teams are dreading the prospect of having their rescheduled games stack up like firewood, one on top of another, on top of another.

At Banks High School, that's not a problem.

The Lady Braves boast three of the best pitchers in the Cowapa League - if not the state - and head coach Jenny Compton can deploy any one of them at any given time.

That's a nice luxury for a team that is scheduled to play five games in the next four days.

Banks (7-3, 1-0) opened league play last Tuesday with a convincing 13-0 win over Tillamook, but Friday's doubleheader against Scappoose was rained out after a few innings, and Monday's proposed make-up was scrapped when the statewide demand for umpires exceeded the supply.

Weather permitting, the two teams will try again today, and Banks will turn around and play a doubleheader against Yamhill-Carlton on Friday.

Add in Tuesday's scheduled game against Seaside, and you've got a busy week.

'Everybody's really looking forward to getting out there and getting more games in,' Compton said.

'When the games start to stack up, you can be in trouble if you only have one pitcher, because she's going to have a lot of pitching to do. For us, fortunately enough, that wouldn't be a problem because we have three really good pitchers.'

Anchored by seniors Marla Gooding and Melissa Masters, and bolstered by junior Kaylin Vandomelen, the Lady Braves have more pitching depth than just about any team in the state, regardless of classification.

Between the three, they have been first team all-league selections eight times, first team all-state selections twice, and each player has earned one major piece of hardware in her career - Vandomelen the Class 4A State Player of the Year award, Gooding the Cowapa League Player of the Year and Masters the Cowapa League Pitcher of the Year.

Gooding took her turn in the pitcher's circle last Tuesday against Tillamook, and she delivered a typically brilliant performance, striking out eight batters and allowing only one hit over five innings.

The Lady Braves backed her up with 17 hits, 16 of them coming in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

'The first two innings we hit the ball well, it just went to people. The next three innings we started finding some holes,' Compton said.

The top of the Banks lineup sparked the offensive eruption, with Vandomelen, Gooding, Masters and freshman Madison Soper combining for 10 of the team's hits. Vandomelen went 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs, Gooding was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, and both Masters and Soper finished the day with two hits and two RBIs.

'It was especially nice for our bats to come alive,' Compton said. 'Offensively things were really looking good, and the top of the order hit the ball really well.'

Not surprisingly, Compton attributed her team's improved performance to its ability to practice outside more often.

'Until about a week ago, we had only been on the dirt twice,' she said. 'We also had a handful of girls who went late into the basketball season, so they hadn't picked up a softball or done much until they joined us.

'Lately we've been able to get on the field more regularly and our practices have been much more effective. We're seeing live pitching outdoors, we're doing more specific position work - we've had some really good practices in the last few days.'

The next step is getting in more games, especially with the Cowapa League season now under way.

'We're getting stronger and more consistent,' Compton said. 'The more games we're getting in, the girls are starting to get into a groove, and that's the way it should be 10 games into the season. The pre-season jitters are over and people are starting to get into rhythm.'

With the make-up games stacking up and the pressure of league play upon her team, Compton said the one thing she wants to avoid is having her players look too far down the road.

'It seems like we're increasingly moving in the right direction with things, but we've got to keep that one-game-at-a-time mentality where we aren't looking too far ahead,' she said.

'I want them looking at each day and asking, 'What can I do to make myself better today?''

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