Gladstone girls appear well on their way to their best season in school history

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - The ball gets away from a Central defender as Gladstone junior Nena Dudley slides into third base during last weeks playoff game with the Panthers. The top-ranked Gladiators blanked Central 7-0, and with the win they set a school record for most wins in a season, at 25. Dudley pitched a complete game, striking out 11 and earning her 12th victory in 13 games this season.With a 7-0 shutout of Central in last week’s first-round game of the Class 4A state high school softball playoffs, the Gladstone Gladiators appeared well on their way to their first state final in school history.

The win over the Panthers put the Gladiators at 25-3 on the season, breaking a record for most wins in a season, set by Gladstone in 2009, when the Gladiators went 24-3, losing to 2009 state champion Marist in the semifinals.

“This team has done an excellent job,” said Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier. “Twenty-five wins is the most wins ever. You don’t win that many games without working really hard, and the girls have done that all season long.”

“I think [setting the school record for most wins] is awesome!” said Gladstone senior captain Ashlee Muller. “We’ve been saying since our first open gym that we thought we could be really good. And we’ve proven that so far, in preseason, in league and now in postseason....

“I think we have a really good chance [of playing for the state title]. I think we have the talent and the drive to make it that far. I’m excited to see how it comes out.”

Ranked first in the state, the Gladiators were to meet 14th-ranked Sutherlin in last Friday’s quarterfinals. With a win, they’d advance to a May 28 semifinal matchup with either fifth-ranked Molalla or fourth-ranked McLoughlin. And with a win in the semifinal, they’d travel to Oregon State University this coming Saturday for the 2013 Class 4A championship final.

The Gladiators were clearly the dominant team in the May 23 playoff game with Central, which was played during a steady rain on the artificial turf field at West Linn’s Rosemont Ridge Middle School.

Junior pitcher Nena Dudley picked up her 12th win in 13 games this season, striking out 11 and walking four in a 2-hitter.

And Dudley got plenty of support, both on offense and on defense. The Gladiators played error-free defense behind her and they stung the ball for 12 hits, with every starter putting the bat on the ball for a hit.

Muller led the hit parade, going 3-for-4, with a double, two singles and two RBI. Molly Webster went 2-for-2, with a triple.

Central only had two baserunners reach as far as second base. In the sixth, a Panther doubled off the left-field wall with two outs, and the next batter flew out to Erica Ward in right field.

And in the seventh frame, a single and a walk put runners at first and second with two outs. Dudley then sent the next batter down swinging to end the game.

Gladstone scored its first run in the third inning. Dudley reached on a fielder’s choice; and three consecutive errors brought her around.

The Gladiators took charge in the fourth stanza, scoring four times on base hits by Andra Breshears, Ward, Webster and Muller, and a two-run double by Dudley.

Leading 5-0, the Gladiators added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth.

Kat Kerr led off the fifth with a single; Meghan Winkle doubled; and Ward plated Kerr with a sacrifice fly.

In the sixth, Kirchem reached on an error and Muller doubled her home.

“It was a good win,” Mortier said. “The girls played well. Everyone hit the ball. I couldn’t ask for more on offense. Nena had a fantastic day. She kept them off balance. They were hitting the ball right at us and when they weren’t hitting it at us, we were making the plays.”

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