The defending Northwest Oregon Conference-champion Kingsmen opened league play with a road win Wednesday at La Salle

PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Putnam's Grace Nuss went 2 for 5 with two singles and scored two runs in Wednesday's 11-0 Northwest Oregon Conference road win over La Salle Prep. The Putnam Kingsmen opened the Northwest Oregon Conference softball season on a high note, rolling to an 11-0 road win Wednesday over the La Salle Prep Falcons.

Putnam's Libby Robinson and Faith Vadelund had three hits each to lead a 15-hit attack and starting pitcher Maddie Mayer blanked La Salle on five hits with 10 strikeouts as the Kingsmen (4-1, 1-0 NWOC) won their fourth in a row.

Melia Croydon, Grace Nuss, and Mikayla Schweinsberg added two hits each for the Kingsmen, who scored three runs in the first inning, two in the third, three in the sixth, and three in the seventh.

"That was a heckuva game," Putnam coach Samantha Frost said. "There's always stuff that you can improve on, but we made adjustments at the plate, we made some adjustments on the bases, we made a lot of good plays in the field, and we just kind of put it all together today.

"It's exciting to see. We've been working on our game, piece by piece. Now, it's all sort of coming together and we've just got to keep it rolling."

La Salle's Maddie Hull and Hannah Sisul each went 2 for 3 with a double, but the other seven Falcons' batters went a combined 1 for 21.

"I don't think Putnam's pitcher was overpowering," Falcons coach Kirsten Smith said. "We just couldn't string anything together. We've seen other decent pitchers and put up eight or nine runs on them, but today we just didn't hit."

Putnam set the tone in the first inning when the Kingsmen sent all nine batters to the plate against La Salle starter Hailey Wadsworth and scored three runs on three hits, two walks, and one Falcons' error.

Robinson, the senior third baseman, delivered the key blow in the inning with a one-out, bases-loaded single that drove in Schweinsberg and Nuss with the game's first two runs.

"I was a little nervous going into it, honestly, because we think La Salle is going to be our toughest competition in the league," Robinson said. "I think the first inning reassured us that we could play with them."

At the same time, there was still a lot of game to be played.

"We got three runs in the first, but we had to keep the mentality that, 'We're not done,'" Frost said. "It wasn't like, 'All right, we've got three. Now, we're just going to coast through the rest of the game.'

"And I think that's a big point of emphasis this year is to try and keep the pressure on and not sit back, because you can't sit on any team in our league."

In the third inning, Robinson and Nall hit back-to-back singles with one out and then both came around to score on Grace Vadelund's two-out single to right, pushing the lead to 5-0.

The Kingsmen broke the game open in the sixth when Mayer got hit by a pitch, Croydon singled to right, Robinson walked, and all three came around to score on two passed balls and an error.

On the mound, Mayer, Putnam's senior left-hander, limited La Salle to one hit over the final four innings – Hull's one-out double to straightaway center in the sixth – and punctuated the shutout by striking out four of the final five batters she faced.

"Maddie did fantastic," Frost said. "She has been pretty dominant and I've seen a lot of improvements in her just in her confidence from last year when she was behind Sarah Abramson.

"For her, I think it's just getting those reps and knowing that she's our starter. It's been nice to see her come into her own a little bit."

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