Softball: Three-run sixth lifts Putnam to 4-2 NWOC home win over La Salle
Stepping back into the batter's box with a count of three balls and two strikes, Putnam's Grace Vadelund got the pitch she was looking for Wednesday.
Vadelund grounded a change-up from La Salle Prep starter Hailey Wadsworth to shortstop for an infield single that scored Anna Keller with the go-ahead run, highlighting a three-run sixth inning that lifted the Kingsmen to a 4-2 Northwest Oregon Conference home win over the Falcons.
Putnam starter Melia Croydon retired the Falcons in order in the seventh, getting two groundouts and a game-ending, infield pop out as the Kingsmen (9-4, 4-1 NWOC) won their third in a row and remained a half-game behind league-leading Hillsboro.
"That was awesome," Kingsmen coach Samantha Frost said. "I felt like we didn't let our intensity drop. We just stayed in the game the whole time and I wasn't worried about our energy level or our effort, at all.
"They just kind of put two and two together and made it happen, which is awesome to see."
After Putnam scored a run in the second inning, La Salle Prep (6-7, 3-1) answered with a run in the fourth and another in the sixth when Wadsworth led off with a triple and scored on Alexis Kemp's grounder to the right side, giving the Falcons a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Croydon reached on an error to lead off the inning and was then replaced by courtesy runner Gracie Avila.
After Avila stole second and then stole third, Anna Keller hitting a looping single to shallow left field, driving home Avila with the tying run.
Next up was Vadelund, the junior catcher and No. 6 batter, who had an RBI-single in the second inning and another single in the fourth in her two previous at-bats against Wadsworth.
This time, Vadelund looked at a pitch out of the strike zone, fouled off the next two pitches, and then watched another pitch off the plate as Keller stole second to move into scoring position.
The next pitch not only was out of the strike zone for ball three, but it also got away from La Salle catcher Caitlyn Young, allowing Keller to advance to third.
Then came the key turning point in the game with Vadelund trying her best to stay calm, facing a full count and the potential go-ahead run standing 60 feet away.
"A lot of people tell me softball is just a game, but to me, it's a lot more and that's why I get so nervous," Vadelund said. "It's a really nerve-racking situation and for some reason, when I'm up to bat and I just close my eyes and think about what I love, I can hit the ball.
"That's what needs to happen."
Wadsworth threw a change-up that was low and away, but was too close for Vadelund to not swing at. Vadelund was a little out in front of the pitch but got enough of it to send a slow roller toward La Salle shortstop Abby Maben, who was playing too deep to have a play at either home or first.
Was Vadelund looking for Wadsworth to throw her a change-up in the situation?
"I was, actually," she said. "I was kind of expecting it because she threw it to me previously and I saw her hand in the mitt and she did that little thing she does and, sure enough, there it came."
Still, with only one out, courtesy runner Aliyah Hilton advanced to second on Allison Davidson's sacrifice bunt, and then Hilton scored from second when the Falcons were slow to react to Madeline Bell's dribbler along the first-base line. That made it 4-2.
All that was left after that was for Croydon to work a perfect seventh, nailing down Putnam's third win in three days
"Honestly, I told the girls it doesn't matter where we're ranked and it doesn't matter where everybody else sees us," Frost said. "As long as we take care of business every pitch, we're going to be doing what need to do and the results will take care of themselves.
"That's kind of been our mentality going into this week, especially. I know parents are telling the kids where they're ranked and this and that, but really we just need to focus on what we need to do as a team to improve our game so we can start taking care of business the way we want to."
Putnam has road games scheduled Tuesday at Scappoose, Wednesday at St. Helens, and Friday at Milwaukie, before returning home on April 29 to face Hillsboro.