The Gladiator senior makes it 21-up and 21-down in an 8-0 trouncing of Estacada; she fans 18 in a one-hit shutout of Madras

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Megan Kirchem (right) receives congratulations from a teammate after striking out the side in a recent game. Kirchem had a big week last week, pitching the first perfect game of her career in an 8-0 win over Estacada, and coming within one pitch of another perfect game in a 4-0 win over Madras.Senior Megan Kirchem was at the top of her game last week, as she came within one pitch of throwing back-to-back perfect games for Gladstone High School’s softball team.

Kirchem made it 21-up and 21-down in an 8-0 shutout of Estacada on April 7, and she faced only 22 batters on April 9, when Gladstone blanked Madras 4-0.

“It was pretty awesome!” Kirchem said of the perfect game. “I didn’t really realize I had a perfect game until coach [Bruce] Mortier came up to me and told me after the game. But I can’t take all the credit. I only had 14 strikeouts. My teammates backed me up and made the plays on defense.”

The Estacada game was the first perfect game of Kirchem’s high school career. She recorded 14 strikeouts, walked no one, and her teammates played error-free defense behind her. She threw 81 pitches and had two called third strikes.

“It was just her normal stuff,” Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier said. “She’s got a good curve, a nice change-up, and a lot of junk. And she hits her spots.”

The Rangers did not hit a ball out of the infield.

Mortier said that shortstop Kat Kerr made the only difficult play on defense, back-handing a ground ball and making the play at first base to prevent a Ranger from reaching base in the sixth inning.

Wednesday’s win over Madras was no less impressive. Kirchem struck out 18 and walked no one in a one-hitter.

“Eighteen strikeouts is the most I’ve had in a single game,” Kirchem said. “I have to give [assistant coach] J.J. Winkle a lot of credit, because he’s the one that calls the pitches for me.... mixing it up and keeping batters guessing....

“I feel like I’m throwing harder [than last year], and I’ve been working really hard on my spin and getting my pitches to move....”

Madras’ lone baserunner reached with two outs in the fourth inning on a bloop single to left field. That base hit was Madras’ only hit out of the infield, and the baserunner did not advance past first base. There were three called third strikes and the 18 strikeouts was a career high.

Still, the contest with Madras was a close game. Madras pitcher Jasmyn Reese (3 strikeouts, 5 walks) scattered six hits and it was still a 1-0 game heading into the bottom of the fifth.

“We were hitting at-em balls,” said Mortier. “And they turned two double plays.”

Gladstone went up 1-0 in the second frame, scoring on a base hit by Kenzi McLeod, a passed ball, and a RBI single by Kerr.

Kirchem helped her own cause in the bottom of the fifth, reaching on a base hit, advancing on an error and passed ball, and scoring on a wild pitch.

A two-run, two-out double by Julia Schumaker in the sixth frame rounded out Gladstone’s scoring.

The Gladiators pounded out 12 hits in the Estacada game, with Kennedy Coy (3-for-4, triple) and Molly Webster (2-for-3, two doubles, two RBI) heading up the effort.

With last week’s wins, the Gladiators upped their season record to 10-1 (2-0 in the Tri-Valley Conference).

The Gladiators sport a .318 batting average on the season, led by Schumaker (.486, 18-for-37), Meghan Winkle (.393, 11-for-28) and Kirchem (.389, 14-for-36).

Kirchem entered play this week with a 0.5 ERA, 102 strikeouts, and only four walks in 56 innings.

Ranked sixth in the OSAA power rankings, the Gladiators face one of their stiffest challenges of the TVC league season this Thursday, when they entertain seventh-ranked La Salle (10-3).

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