By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

No. 1 Stunner

YAMHILL – Banks brought out the best in Yamhill-Carlton softball Friday.

In a matchup between the No. 1-ranked (the Braves) and No. 2-ranked (the Tigers) teams in Class 4A, as per OSAA, Y-C survived an edge-of-your-seat pitchers’ duel in the first game, 3-2 in nine innings, and then survived a back-and-forth, heart palpitation-inducing second game, 7-5.

With the wins, the Tigers (14-1, 8-1 Class 4A Cowapa League) wrested both the OSAA No. 1 power ranking and control of the Cowapa League away from the Braves (14-2, 7-2). With six games remaining in its league season, much can happen, but Y-C will be the heavy favorite to close out its season as league champions.

“Since bas basically forever they have been our rivals,” Tigers second baseman DeLaney Ogden said. “It was literally one of our biggest goals, to beat them and win the league.”

The fact that Y-C had not beaten Banks since April 20, 2012 – including a 3-1 loss on April 15 – lent extra emotion to each inning, each pitch, each at-bat.

“We’re on fire,” senior Emily Drevdahl said. “I could honestly play another game.”

“I cannot stop smiling,” Ogden said. “I’m, like, shaking. I’m going to go home and just pass out.”

Much of the Tigers’ success rested on the right arm of senior Molly Smith, as it has all season. The University of Memphis signee pitched 14 of the 16 innings of the two games, allowing 11 hits and five runs (two of them earned … more on that later) while striking out 20 batters. Smith, a classic power pitcher, struck out 13 batters in the first game while throwing all nine innings.

“(The key was) just keeping all my pitches moving,” Smith said. “You can’t put anything down the middle against this team. They take advantage of everything.”

In the first inning, Banks catcher Madison Soper took advantage of a pitch down the middle for an RBI single. Braves shortstop MaKenna Partain made additional noise in the fifth inning of the first game with an RBI triple, bringing home Hannah VanDomelen.

Yamhill-Carlton responded in kind. Ogden singled in the first inning and later stole home to tie the game, and Drevdahl scored another game-tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Banks pitcher Tiffany Snyder, on in relief of staff ace VanDomelen, struck out Y-C’s Morgan Jarvis, by Soper let the ball pass by her. What would have been the third out of the inning instead turned into a tie ballgame and new life for the Tigers.

Junior Elayna Apuya turned into the heroine for Yamhill-Carlton, Apuya, celebrating her 17th birthday Friday, had a pinch-hit single for the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth inning. Y-C proceeded to load the bases, and a wild pitch from Snyder to Drevdahl was enough to send Apuya home safely.

The Tigers celebrated in front of their own dugout, but with another game on the docket, the celebration was over shortly.

“This definitely took a toll on everybody’s mental game and physical game,” Smith said.

Both teams’ bats came alive in the second game, but the defense took a turn for the worse. Ogden kicked off the scoring in the first inning, with an RBI bunt single to bring home Ember Armstrong; Ogden later scored on Taylor Stepp’s fielder’s choice. Smith hit an RBI single in the third inning to bring Ogden home again.

However, Yamhill-Carlton committed six errors in the first four innings of the second game and shaky pitching by Drevdahl (two innings pitched, one strikeout) and Smith allowed the Braves to take a 5-3 lead.

Drevdahl took her turn as heroine in the bottom of the fourth inning.

With Madisyn Babcock and Armstrong on base, Drevdahl laced a triple to right field. A throwing error by Banks right fielder Madison Seed on the play allowed Drevdahl to continue running for home.

“I was so focused I didn’t talk to anybody and I was ready,” Drevdahl said. “I was in the zone.”

Yamhill-Carlton continued to apply pressure, as Armstrong hit a single off VanDomelen to bring home Brittnee Benson in the sixth inning. Meanwhile, Smith got stronger, allowing one hit and striking out four batters in the last three innings of the game.

“We did not let up once, and that’s why we won,” Ogden.

Now, as the No. 1 team in Class 4A, Yamhill-Carlton has the target on its back. But it’s been that way for the Tigers throughout the season.

What has changed, if anything, is an extra spring in Y-C’s step.

“They push us every single season to be better and beat them,” Smith said of Banks. “We finally did it.”

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