Quakers smash through first-round hurdle
The Franklin Quakers were happy to make the state softball playoffs for the fourth year in a row. And to have a first-round game at home for the third consecutive year. They just wanted to stick around longer than last year.
On Monday, the Quakers made sure there would be no quick exit. The Portland Interscholastic League champs jumped quickly on visiting McNary and took it from there, winning 9-5 at Erv Lind Stadium.
The Quakers will play a Class 6A second-round game Wednesday at Barlow, which ousted Lincoln, 10-0, in five innings.
Pitcher Samantha Brauckmiller picked up Monday's win for Franklin. She and several fellow seniors, including first baseman Emma Foster, left fielder Bailey Nguyen, third baseman Gracie Elliott, second baseman Yarely Guerrero-Valenzuela and shortstop Stephannie Lopez were clearly focused on what they needed to do to get past McNary.
The Quakers hadn't forgotten how one year ago, on the same field and in the same round, they got knocked out 2-1 by Liberty.
Franklin coach Gina Aman said her veteran players "definitely have that" sense of urgency about this postseason.
"They're feeling it, and it's awesome," Aman said.
The feeling has been there and building for weeks. Franklin is 20-1 in its last 21 games, with only a 2-0 loss to PIL runner-up Roosevelt, which the Quakers avenged, taking two of three overall from the Roughriders en route to the league title.
"These girls have been working for this the last eight or nine years, and it's all coming together now," Aman said. "Things are going our way right now. We've got a good jel going on."
Foster said the Quakers, many of them having played on the same teams for years, "really want to end out time together on a high note and make it as deep in the playoffs as we can."
Aman said all those years and hours spent on honing their softball skills have enabled Franklin to make such a good run over the past several years.
"It's a culmination of all the work they've done, all the practices, all the extra gym time," she said. "We're reaping the benefit of that."
And growing even from the infrequent defeats.
"I think we learned from that experience (against Liberty) how we need to practice and how our mind-set needs to be coming into games like these," Brauckmiller said. "We want to go really hard."
The Quakers looked both intense and comfortable on Monday.
"We had our happy medium going," Foster said.
They were also swinging aggressively and moving runners up even more aggressively — Franklin softball style.
"Everybody made contact and was hitting the ball hard, which is key," Aman said. "The last three weeks, we've stressed getting on top of the ball — line drives and hard ground balls, because you're going to win the balls in the dirt."
The result of all that contact Monday was 2 1/2 hits per inning — including three solid doubles by Foster, the PIL Player of the Year.
"She's had a fantastic year," Aman said. "She's seeing the ball well, and she's one of the best hitters in the state."
Foster, who plans to play for College of the Siskyous in Weed, California, drove in a couple of runs.
"We were stringing hits together and pushed people in (to score) really well," she said.
Brauckmiller was grateful for that. She recalled a March 21 game at McNary. It was Franklin's third outing of the season, and the Quakers survived a 14-10 slugfest.
"We knew they were good hitters," Brauckmiller said of the Celtics. "We thought about that a lot coming into today."
McNary loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but went scoreless after a pop-up to the shortstop in shallow left field and a subsequent throw home nailed the runner trying to score from third.
Franklin wasted no time taking the lead. Three hits in each of the first two innings netted two and three runs for a 5-0 lead.
The Celtics got one run in the top of the third. But before the inning was over, eight of the nine Quakers had one hit, the other starter had a sacrifice, and Franklin was in control, 6-1.
McNary tallied two runs in the fifth, only to see Franklin get two in the bottom half of the frame for a 9-3 cushion.
Brauckmiller came out after five innings and 76 pitches, having scattered six hits.
The Celtics got a two-run triple from Taylor Ebbs in the ninth, but Nguyen was able to close them out in her two innings of relief.
Aman said she gave Nguyen the work to give the Celtics a different look and also to give ace Brauckmiller a breather on a warm afternoon.
"We want to make sure we're fresh for Wednesday," the coach said.
Barlow (21-7) is ranked fourth in 6A by the Oregon School Activities Association. The Bruins tied Clackamas for the best record in the Mt. Hood Conference.
Franklin, ranked 13th, is 22-6.
In other 6A first-round games on Monday: Roosevelt lost 11-2 at Roseburg; No. 8 Jesuit defeated Centennial, 4-0, at Jesuit; No. 21 David Douglas won 6-3 in an upset at No. 12 McMinnville; Central Catholic lost 10-0 in six innings at No. 1 Tualatin; and Wilson dropped an 8-0 decision at No. 6 Glencoe.
Other Wednesday quarterfinal matchups: West Salem at Tualatin, Westview at Jesuit, David Douglas at Oregon City, Sheldon at North Medford, Tigard at Glencoe, West Albany at Grants Pass, and Roseburg at Clackamas.