Putnam is second only to St. Helens heading into the final week of NWOC play

After going 7-17 in 2013, little was expected of Rex Putnam High School’s softball team this spring.

But through hard work, dedication and senior leadership, the Kingsmen have become one of the hottest teams in the state in Class 5A softball.

Heading into play this week, the final week of the regular season, the Kingsmen (16-6, 9-2) had a shot at bagging a league title. They trailed the league leader, St. Helens (14-6, 9-1), by just half a game. Among their league wins were two over defending state champion Sandy (16-6, 7-3).

Sandy, Liberty (17-6, 6-5), Putnam and St. Helens were ranked first, fourth, sixth and eighth in the state respectively in the OSAA power rankings entering play this week, making the Northwest Oregon Conference arguably the toughest Class 5A league in the state.

In games last week, the Kingsmen upset Liberty, winning 5-4 in eight innings, after upending Wilsonville (11-3) and Milwaukie (10-0 in six innings) earlier in the week. Friday’s win over Liberty at Hillsboro Stadium avenged an earlier 9-7 loss.

“I’m very proud of these girls,” said Putnam coach Tiffany Strnad. “They’ve worked hard and put the time in. And they play with a lot of heart and desire, especially the seniors. It’s their last year and they’ve stepped up and helped motivate the rest of the kids. But really, I’m proud of all of them.”

Strnad had a right to be proud of her charges in last Friday’s extra-inning road win over the fourth-ranked Falcons. The contest was a battle from the start, but the Kingsmen kept their composure and battled hard until the end.

Timely hitting told the story. The Kingsmen were held to just seven hits, but they made their hits count.

Junior Kate Betschart led off the game with a base hit and scored on a two-run home run by senior Ashley Culp, her sixth round-tripper of the year.

“She got it all,” Strnad said of Culp’s round-tripper.” It was well into the other field. It would have cleared any fence.... It was probably around 300 feet.”

Liberty answered in the bottom of the first, scoring two runs on two walks and two singles.

Putnam went up 4-2 with two more runs in the top of the fourth. Sophomore Brooke Snyder (2-for-4) singled and scored with two down when junior Hayley Dolfay crushed the ball over the fence in left field, the first-round tripper of her high school career.

Liberty got those runs back and knotted the score at 4-4, scoring with two down in the bottom of the fifth on two singles, a fielder’s choice and a two-run home run.

The two teams than went scoreless until the top of the eighth, when junior Maggie Waymire pushed the game-winner across.

Betschart (2-for-4) singled in the eighth, advanced on a bunt by senior Taylor Balfour and a wild pitch, and scored with two down on a base hit up the middle by Waymire.

The Kingsmen then made it three-up and three-down for Liberty in the bottom of the eighth, with freshman pitcher Sarah Abramson retiring two batters on strikes.

Abramson pitched a complete game, striking out six, walking four, and giving up eight hits.

Liberty senior Ashley Driscoll (3 strikeouts, no walks) pitched a complete game for Falcons in the losing effort.

The Kingsmen had their bats working in last week’s games with Wilsonville and Milwaukie.

Putnam sluggers pounded out 15 hits in the 11-3 rout of Wilsonville and they also had 15 hits in the 10-0 six-inning win over the Mustangs.

Betschart (3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 runs), Waymire (3-for-4, 2 runs), Culp (2-for-4), Abramson (2-for-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and sophomore Sydney Nichols (2-for-3, 2 runs) led the hit parade at Wilsonville.

Abramson pitched, striking out four, while walking two and scattering seven hits.

Betschart (3-for-4, 2 runs), Culp (2-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 runs), Balfour (2-for-3, double), Waymire (2-for-4, double, 2 runs), Dolfay (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and sophomore Vicki Garvin (2-for-3, double, 2 runs) were the “big sticks” at Milwaukie.

Snyder and Abramson teamed up to throw a one-hitter at Milwaukie, combining for nine strikeouts, while yielding just one walk and a base hit. Madison Stephens singled to lead off the bottom of the third for Milwaukie’s only hit.

Putnam concludes the regular season this week, entertaining St. Helens today at 5 p.m. and Sherwood (6-14, 2-8) on Friday.

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