The Kingsmen deal the defending state champs another loss in league

by: DAVID BALL - PUTNAMS SARAH ABRAMSONCompeting in arguably the toughest Class 5A softball league in the state, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen last week continued to prove themselves one of the top Class 5A teams, upsetting top-ranked Sandy 3-1, winning 7-5 at Sherwood, and giving the St. Helens Lions a run for their money in a 1-0 loss.

Heading into play this week, NWOC teams Sandy (No. 1), Liberty (No. 4), Putnam (No. 7) and St. Helens (No. 10) were all ranked in the top 10 in the state in the OSAA power rankings.

“I like what the girls are showing right now,” said Putnam coach Tiffany Strnad. “We’re playing well. Our pitchers have shown better ball control and that’s led to better defense. We still need a little more consistency on defense, but we’re playing a lot better.”

Strnad said her charges played “the best I’ve seen them play all season” in last Friday’s upset of the top-ranked Pioneers.

Putnam freshman Sarah Abramson, in her best outing as a Kingsman, struck out 11 Sandy batters, while allowing just one walk and five scattered hits. And her teammates supported her with near error-free defense, committing just one error in an intensely played game.

“[Catcher] Ashley Culp and Sarah did a great job,” said Strnad. “Sarah throws really hard, but Ashley and Sarah did a great job mixing up the pitches and throwing in some off-speed stuff. They stayed focussed all game long. It was definitely Sarah’s best outing.”

Sandy all-league catcher Rachel Rutledge started the game’s scoring with a solo home run over the fence in left-center field in the top of the fourth inning.

Sandy committed a rare error in the bottom of the fourth and the Kingsmen took advantage. Taylor Balfour reached on the miscue, stole second and third and scored with one down on a groundout by Maggie Waymire.

The game remained tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the sixth, when the Kingsmen pushed the go-ahead runs across.

Culp singled, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored the game-winner on another RBI-groundout by Waymire.

Brooke Snyder kept the rally going with a base hit, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Hayley Dolfay and scored on a double down the right-field line by Sydney Nichols.

Sandy all-league pitcher Sammie Byron pitched a 4-hitter, but she only struck out three Putnam batters and she issued three free passes.

“We didn’t get a lot of hits, but we put the ball in play and made them work,”Strnad said.

The win left Putnam (13-6, 6-2) tied with Sandy (15-5, 6-2) in second place in the NWOC standings, a game back of St. Helens (12-6, 7-1). The Kingsmen handed the Pioneers their only other league loss of the 2014 season, winning 2-1 in an April 15 game at Sandy. Sandy is the defending state champion in Class 5A softball.

Putnam was scheduled to play at cross-town rival Milwaukie (2-16, 1-7) this afternoon. The Kingsmen face a stiff challenge this Friday, when they play Liberty (16-4, 5-3) on the road. Liberty prevailed 9-7 in an April 23 game with the Kingsmen.

Last week’s 7-5 win at Sherwood was a real character-builder in which the Kingsmen had to overcome some major adversity. The team was shaken up in the third inning when infielders Taylor Balfour (shortstop) and Justice Duval (second base) collided when trying to chase down a ball hit up the middle. One of them was taken away in an ambulance.

Sherwood scored three runs and took a 3-2 lead in the inning.

With the score tied at 3-3, Putnam scored three runs in the top of the sixth to pull out the win.

Snyder led off the sixth with a double and scored on a base hit by Dolfay. Nichols moved Dolfay up with a sacrifice bunt, Taylar Schmidt walked and both runners scored on a two-out single by Kate Betschart.

Strnad says that Balfour appears to be fully recovered from the collision, but that Duval will likely be out of action for some time while she recoveries from a back injury.

Culp had a solo home run in the first inning of the Sherwood game. Snyder went 3-for-4 at the plate, with two doubles; Nichols went 2-for-2.

Last week’s game with St. Helens was a barnburner. Abramson (7 strikeouts, 3 walks) pitched a two-hitter; St. Helens pitcher Mariah Mulcahy (9 strikeouts, 2 walks), who was last year’s NWOC Pitcher of the Year, threw a one-hitter.

Culp singled to lead off the seventh for Putnam’s only hit of the game, and she was tagged out rounding third base for the final out of the game.

St. Helens scored with two-down in the first inning, on a walk, a stolen base, a groundout and a run-scoring base hit by sophomore Taylor Leal.

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