Putnam advances to state title game
State Playoffs (semifinals)
|#6 Putnam (21-5)|
|#14 Lebanon (14-15)|
Putnam ace Maddie Mayer undoubtedly has had an amazing season as a pitcher.
The senior southpaw was named the Northwest Oregon Conference Pitcher of the Year and is committed to play at Western Oregon University next season.
Mayer had another outstanding day in the circle, but it was her hitting that really put Putnam over the top in their semifinal contest against Lebanon on Tuesday.
Mayer went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a three-run homer, all while pitching a two-hitter, leading Putnam to the state championship game with a 5-1 victory over Lebanon.
"This is insane. I really don't know how to describe it," Mayer said about her team advancing to the state championship. "It's not something we were really expecting."
Thanks to upsets in the early rounds of the playoffs, the sixth-ranked Kingsmen have been the higher seeded team in all of their postseason games thus far. Central (first round) Crater (quarterfinals) and Lebanon are not even ranked in the top 10 in the 5A poll. However, that trend will end this Saturday when Putnam takes on No. 1 Pendleton for all the marbles at Oregon State University.
"Everything has come together for us at the right time," Putnam head coach Samantha Frost said. "These girls have worked their butts off. They've earned it for sure."
The Kingsmen had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but were never able to drive any in. However, Putnam was finally able to break the seal offensively in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to a crucial miscue by the Warriors.
Melia Croydon started the inning off with a walk, bringing up Putnam catcher Grace Vadelund.
Vadelund hit a hard ground ball to Lebanon third baseman Ally Wessel on what looked to be a double play opportunity for the Warriors. But Wessel rushed her throw and chucked the ball into left field. Vadelund ended up advancing to second on the error and Croydon was able to score from first to put Putnam on top 1-0.
After a strikeout and sacrifice fly — which got Vadelund's courtesy runner, Kira Naito, to third base — leadoff hitter Mikayla Schweinsberg kept the inning going with a single down the right field line to extend Putnam's lead to 2-0.
"We did a good job of making adjustments," Schweinsberg said. "If you do one good thing, it can be a chain reaction that effects the whole team."
A hard-hit single by Faith Vadelund in the following at-bat set the table for Mayer.
Mayer got a fastball right down the middle on the first pitch she saw from Lebanon pitcher Kira Sneddon and tattooed it for a no-doubt three-run blast to break the game open for the Kingsmen.
"The past couple of games I've been trying to watch a couple pitches. But when I did that, I was getting down in the count and it was stressing me out," Mayer said. "This game I went back to what I was doing…I was looking for a strike right away."
On the mound, Mayer retired the first 11 hitters she faced. Wessel got the first hit for the Warriors on a bloop single to left field in the top of the fourth. But Wessel made the mistake of trying to stretch it into a double and she was thrown out at second by Mikaela Nall.
When she came back to the circle in the top of the fifth with a five-run cushion, Mayer knew she could relax and be more aggressive with attacking hitters.
"I think it made everyone more comfortable," Mayer said. "If they scored a run or got a hit, we didn't panic."
Lebanon got an unearned run in the fifth after a double by Rylie Milligan and a pair of errors by the Putnam infield. But Mayer retired eight of the next nine batters she faced to send her team onto Corvallis.
While Putnam is a very young team with 13 underclassmen on their roster, they do have some championship experience on their squad, which should bode well for them on Saturday.
Mayer and Schweinsberg, along with third baseman Liberty Robinson, were all on Putnam's state championship team back in 2015 — where the Kingsmen happened to defeat Pendleton 3-2.
"They are the true leaders of this team," Frost said about the three seniors. "They do a good job of keeping this team focused while also having fun…Their experience is huge for us going into the championship."