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Consistent offense was the key to the Gladiator's victory at Molalla softball field

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Molalla's Rachel DeRosa rounds second base after teammate Amanda Wendell cracked a double into left field.Molalla softball finds itself in the midst of a three game skid. After putting together a three game winning streak against Corbett (2x) and Madras, the squad lost a blowout game against Madras in the rematch on Monday, April 22, and came up short against Gladstone 10-0 on Wednesday, April 24. Molalla looked to change its fortunes in the second matchup with Gladstone on Friday, April 26, but outside of the bottom of the third inning it was tough going for the home team.

Gladstone walked away with the victory after strong batting performances in the top of each of the five innings en route to an 18-4 victory. With the win, Gladstone improves to 14-4 overall, and 8-2 in the Tri-Valley Conference (TVC). Molalla slips to 4-4 in conference play, and is 10-7 overall.

"They're the No. 1 team in our league," Molalla coach Bill Baxter said. "They hit the ball very well, and they're disciplined. Part of it is like the beginning of our season. We're really young and short on pitchers."

"I'm proud of the girls, they came out and took care of business," Gladstone coach Emily Smith said. "It's hard when you beat a team like that to come back and play that well, so I was happy with their performance."PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Gladstone's Jasmin Torres Zaines rounds second base at Molalla softball field.

Visiting Gladstone was able to put the runs on the board consistently, racking up five runs apiece in the first and second inning, three runs in the third and fourth inning, and two in the fifth and final inning.

What was most impressive for the visiting Gladiators was their defensive effort, shutting out Molalla in four of the five innings played. Exemplifying the team's sterling defense was a double play in the bottom of the second inning.

After Molalla senior Charlotte Pursley singled to Gladstone pitcher Aubrey Jayne to take her base, Molalla senior Grace Nelzen cracked a pitch past the mound and appeared to make it two hits in a row. However, the Gladstone defense got the out at second and then first to put the pressure on Molalla's bats.PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Molalla's Jessica Hewitt makes the catch at first.

Molalla's offense came alive in the bottom of the third inning. The first Molalla run of the game came thanks to senior Amanda Wendell who doubled and sent junior Rachel DeRosa in for the score. Two hits later, Wendell herself scored thanks to another double from freshman Alison Wickham.

The next at-bat saw Jessica Hewitt ground out to the Gladstone second baseman, allowing senior Tyler Maricich to score. Finally, fellow senior Jaycee Gago followed suit with a ground out to second, pushing through Wendell for the final Molalla run of the game.

According to Baxter, Molalla was able to stay loose in the bottom of the third to get the bats going.

"They relaxed, that's about it," Baxter said. "I don't yell at them or get at them too much. We're trying to build a different culture, a nicer culture for this team so we can bring players in. It's one of those things."

"The biggest thing I noticed with the girls, and it's just experience, they tighten up when things start going wrong in the outfield," Baxter continued. "They have to learn to relax and enjoy what they're doing, that's a lot of it."

Gladstone kept its foot on the pedal from the word go, racking up hits consistently. The top of the second inning was especially fruitful, with freshman Carmen Collins and sophomore Marrin McLeod both recording doubles and three RBIs between them. Senior catcher Kaleigh Noble also recorded two RBIs later in the inning.

Gladstone will face off with Estacada (1-8 in TVC, 5-13 overall) on Monday, April 29. Molalla looks to shake its skid against North Marion (7-3 in TVC, 12-5 overall) on the same day.

"North Marion is very beatable," Baxter said. "We've proven that. We had them 6-2 the first time, and just gave up one inning that got us, unfortunately. But we have to play our game defensively, and hit the ball. We can hit the ball with anybody. We just have to keep our heads and keep the plays where they're supposed to be."

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