Gladstone rolls past Molalla 11-1, clinches outright Tri-Valley title
Gladstone put the finishing touch on another Tri-Valley Conference softball championship with an 11-1 home win Thursday over Molalla at Gladstone High School.
Madison Brady went 3 for 4 with a double and drove in three runs as the No. 7-ranked Gladiators (19-4, 13-2) celebrated Senior Night by wrapping up their second consecutive league title and fifth in the last sixth seasons.
Gladstone pitcher Aubrey Jayne scattered six hits and struck out two in six innings, and also went 2 for 4 at the plate with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the sixth that scored Marrin McLeod with the run that gave the Gladiators a 10-run lead and ended the game.
After the game, the Gladiators paid tribute to their three seniors — first baseman Madison Diggs, catcher Kaleigh Noble, and second baseman Sabrina Ward — and now look forward to seeing where they land in the OSAA Class 4A playoff pairings.
"There was a lot of emotion with it being Senior Night, but I think we played pretty well from beginning to end," said Brady, Gladstone's junior shortstop. It was really nice to win league again, but sending the seniors out on a high note was probably the best part for me.
"Just to see them smile and be happy … that's all I'm going for here."
Gladstone took most of the suspense out of Thursday's league finale after they scored three runs in the first inning, three more in the second, and one in the third to take a 7-0 lead.
Jayne, the sophomore right-hander, took a one-hit shutout into the fourth inning when Molalla's Alison Wickham led off with a single, went to second on Jessica Hewitt's single, advanced to third on Charlotte Pursley's fielder's choice, and scored on a Gladstone error to make it 7-1.
The Gladiators answered with two runs in the bottom half of the fourth, a run in the fifth, and the game-deciding run in the sixth.
"This game was hard because it was Senior Night," Gladiators coach Emily Smith said. "It's so important to the girls to have Senior Night that it's sometimes hard to focus on the game. So, I would say it was one of the best games we've played, but it was fun and we celebrated the seniors, and that was important."
Ward, last season's Tri-Valley player of the year, finished the night 1 for 4 with a stolen base and a run scored.
"I'm really happy that we won another league title," Ward said. "It's pretty cool to be part of this awesome team and it's sad that I have to go, but I'm happy we ended league on a good win."
Molalla's Lexie Calkins, Amanda Wendell, Analiz Wickham, Alison Wickham, Hewitt, and Pursley finished with one hit each for the Indians (14-10, 8-7), who helped dig their own hole with five errors in the field.
"We made some mistakes, for sure," Molalla coach Bill Baxter said. "We kicked a couple of balls, but Gladstone is a good ball team, and that's the reason they won our league, the reason why they're ranked in the top 10.
"We can play with anybody, but we can't make mistakes like that with a team like this."
Molalla finished the regular season with more league wins (eight) than the team had in the last three season combined (six), and this is the first Molalla team with 10 or more wins since the 2013 league-championship team finished 20-6.
The Indians also have their fingers crossed that they earn a berth in next week's 4A play-in round once the OSAA power rankings freeze on Monday night.
"I am super-proud and super-excited for these kids and what they've accomplished," Baxter said. "Right now, we're in that last position for a play-in game and we might need a little bit of help over the weekend. You never know what could happen."
Gladstone is making its eighth consecutive appearance in the state playoffs. In the last seven seasons, the Gladiators have reached the quarterfinals five times and advanced as far as the semifinals twice in 2013 and 2016.
What kind of run is this Gladstone team capable of?
"I think we can make it all the way as long as we stay out of our heads, stay confident, and trust in one another that we can do it," Ward said.
Added Smith: "When we're on our game, we have the ability to surprise a lot of people. Just put it that way. I think we've got a good rhythm. There's good team chemistry and the girls are playing happy and having fun. So, yes, I'm optimistic."