The 4A Braves finish 2-2 at 6A tourney after losses to Aloha and Glencoe at Hillsboro Stadium.

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Banks junior pitcher Michaela Shaw winds to throw a pitch during the Braves' game against Aloha during the Glencoe Softball Invitational Friday, March 30, at Hillsboro Stadium.Nothing lasts forever.

After three straight Cowapa League titles, two trips to the OSAA 4A State Championship game and one state title, the Banks Braves softball team is going to have to do things a little differently this season due to graduating the bulk of a core of players responsible for much of their recent success on the diamond. But despite having just two seniors and a squad nearly half-full of freshmen and sophomores, the Braves still hope to compete for a league title and last week they took a step in that direction — despite a slice of humble pie.

After starting the season 2-1, Banks participated in the Glencoe Softball Invitational Thursday, March 29, and Friday, March 30, at Hillsboro Stadium.

In spite of being the only 4A team participating in a tournament full of 6A participants, the Braves opened the event with consecutive wins over Liberty and Lake Oswego. But what a difference a day can make, as the prosperity Banks experienced on day one turned sour the next day, with two lopsided defeats to Aloha and Glencoe of the Metro League.

"I think yesterday when we came in, we had that attitude of 'nothing to lose,'" said Banks head coach James Wise. "We're a 4A school playing against a bunch of 6A schools, but getting two wins yesterday, we came into today thinking we can hit our way out of situations. And as you saw, we made a number of fielding errors that forced us to play from behind, and that's not something were accustomed to, coming from our league."

The Braves committed eight errors in a 15-11 loss to Aloha, falling behind 13-3 before a fifth-inning rally made things interesting late. They were led in defeat by sophomore Hailey Gibson, who had three hits and three RBIs, as well as standout senior captain Keegan Wise, who finished 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI.

Aloha scored two somewhat fluky runs in the first, when a leadoff single by Michelle Winfield was followed by a Leina Belog bunt attempt that turned into a four-base set of throwing errors and two Warrior runs. Belog's bunt down the third baseline was thrown over the first baseman's head and into right field. Winfield scored, then the throw to third base from right field got away, and Belog slid safely into home for the game's second run.

Banks answered in the bottom half of the first, when a Wise double was followed up by a Hannah McCourt single to right that made it 2-1. But after two quick outs to start the second, Aloha strung together a single, a double, then a mammoth home run by Belog to set off a hit-, error- and walk-filled frame that only ended after the Warriors had scored six more runs to build an 8-1 lead.

The Braves pulled within 8-3 in the bottom of the second, but Aloha scored one in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth before Banks got six in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 13-9, before it mercifully ended an inning later.

Despite the loss, and another shortly after to a very good Glencoe team, Wise understands it's a work in progress and is confident his young squad will get better with time.

"We're very heavy on sophomores, only having two seniors this year," said the coach. "So a lot of those younger girls haven't experienced varsity, so watching them go from JV to this atmosphere is a lot to process."

Nonetheless, the coach is optimistic that with a little work and more game experience his young squad will be ready for the Cowapa League, and will make a run at a fourth consecutive league title.

"We have some stuff to clean up, but once we get out onto our field on some dirt and grass and being able to practice, we'll be able to iron some of that stuff out," said Wise. "I think we'll be fine in league."

Banks was scheduled to host Tillamook Tuesday, April 3, past this newspaper's print deadline, and will travel to Gladstone Wednesday, April 4, before visiting Tillamook the following day.

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