Banks remains unbeaten after league victories over No. 2 Yamhill-Carlton, No. 9 Scappoose

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Banks junior Hannah VanDomelen delivers a pitch during last Friday's league game against Scappoose.Banks isn’t the only Cowapa League softball team in the top 10 of the Class 4A state power rankings this season, but the Braves proved last week that they’re still the team to beat.

Top-ranked Banks began league play last week and ran its season-opening win streak to 10 games with a 3-1 victory against No. 2 Yamhill-Carlton on Tuesday and a doubleheader sweep of No. 9 Scappoose on Friday.

“It was a great way to start league,” Banks coach Jenny Compton said of beating the Braves’ two likeliest challengers to capturing a fifth straight outright league championship. “I think Y-C is the team that will be pushing us the most this year in league, so it was a really important game. Obviously in our first league game of the season it was nice to be able to come out with a win there.”

Junior lefthander Hannah VanDomelen pitched against Yamhill-Carlton and earned the win, scattering six hits and striking out five.

“We had good defense behind her and she pitched really well,” Compton said.

The Braves spotted VanDomelen a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, manufacturing a pair of runs with two outs. MaKenna Partain singled and took second base on a bobble in the outfield, and Madison Soper followed with an RBI single. Madison Seed and Kindel Bailey walked to load the bases, and pinch-runner Karlie Gerlinger scored when Molly Hammond’s ground ball was mishandled at third base.

Yamhill-Carlton (8-1, 2-1) got a run back in the top of the third on a pair of two-out singles by DeLaney Ogden and Molly Smith, but Smith was thrown out trying to take second base and VanDomelen didn’t give the Tigers too many more opportunities.

Banks got an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth. Hammond was hit by a pitch and Tiffany Snyder drew a walk to set up JoJo Wren, who smacked an RBI single back up the middle to score Gerlinger, who was pinch running again.

The win gives Banks a leg up in the league title chase, but the two teams will meet again for a decisive doubleheader on May 2.

“If things play out like I think they could, whoever gets second in league probably still gets a first-round bye in the (state) playoffs,” Compton said. “It was a big win for us, but it’s not totally secure because we still have to go there and play two games. When we play that doubleheader at their place, it’s probably going to be just as intense, if not more.”

With the Tigers in the rearview mirror, Banks focused on Friday’s double-dip against Scappoose (7-5, 1-2), which had climbed to ninth in the Class 4A power rankings.

VanDomelen threw the first game and scattered 10 hits over seven innings, striking out four and leading the Braves to a 9-3 victory. Snyder pitched the nightcap and allowed five hits in seven innings, helping Banks notch a 9-2 triumph.

“Scappoose is a good hitting team. Their strongest suit is definitely their hitting,” Compton said. “We had some really, really exciting defensive plays against them.

“Defense is going to be important this season, because our pitching is not necessarily going to be dominant where we’re sitting people down left and right with strikeouts.”

The Braves have relied on power pitching in the past, with strikeout machines like Kaylin VanDomelen, Melissa Masters and Marla Gooding dominating opposing hitters.

This year’s pitching staff of Hannah VanDomelen, Snyder and Kortni Ragsdale is geared more toward throwing strikes and letting the defense work behind them.

“The girls have been good about transitioning and knowing that they need to step up their defense,” Compton said. “You can tell they’re phenomenal athletes with their pitching and hitting and baserunning, but it’s going to be really neat to see them shine on defense.”

After playing their first seven games of the season on the road — including four games at the North Medford Spring Break Invitational — the Braves enjoyed playing in front of a home crowd for all three games last week.

“The girls were so ecstatic to have a home game,” Compton said. “They were super, super excited. We’ve been on the road the entire season.”

Of course, Banks faces the possibility of five more road games this week with league foes Astoria and Seaside on the schedule, plus a rescheduled nonleague doubleheader against Rainier.

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