Scorpions cop county fastpitch title

The Milwaukie area team rallies around the pitcher/catcher combo of Thompson and Echavarria to capture first place at the county 12-U-C tourney

GLADSTONE - A youthful 12-and-under fastpitch softball team from Milwaukie was among the top 12-U-C teams in Oregon in 2006.

The North Clackamas Scorpions were the class of the field at the recent Clackamas County 12-U-C Championship Tournament, out-scoring tournament opponents 51-6 en route to a 5-0 record and a county championship.

The team continued tough at the state tournament, going 2-2, with one of the losses a controversial 4-3 loss to Gold Beach, the eventual state champion.

'The Gold Beach coach told me, 'You didn't lose that game. It was taken away from you. I really hope we meet again,'' said Scorpion coach Barb Welsh.

Welsh indicated that a vision-challenged umpire missed several calls in the game, and most of them seemed to go against her team.

But Welsh's Scorpions were awesome in Clackamas County, going 12-0 in their county league and breezing through the county championship tournament, after a tough opening-round game with North Marion.

The stellar season was all the more gratifying for the Scorpions because of the team's relative inexperience. Of the 11 girls who finished the season, four had never played softball before and two others had played on a team that didn't win a game in the previous season, Welsh said.

'The team started out with a lot of inexperience,' said Welsh. 'But we worked them hard, and they got better.'

Pitcher Michelle Thompson and catcher Chica Echavarria were the heart of the team.

The two girls have been a pitcher-catcher team for the past five seasons. This year, for the first time, they had specialized pitching and catching coaches, and the instruction paid huge dividends.

'Michelle added a change, rise and drop this year, and her fastball was twice as fast,' said Welsh. 'Chica called the pitches and she learned to frame the ball, which helped out a lot with Michelle getting strikes on pitches that were outside of the strike zone.

'Chica rarely let pitches get by her and she threw out people on every base.'

Thompson pitched all the way in most of the Scorpions' postseason games. Echavarria was behind the plate every inning through five county tournament games and four state tournament games.

Thompson pitched 23 innings in the county tournament, striking out 46, walking 12 and allowing just seven hits.

The Scorpions took no hostages in the county championship game, a 20-2 rout of Happy Valley. Thompson struck out 11, walked three and allowed just two hits in five innings.

Meanwhile Scorpion sluggers reached Happy Valley pitchers for no fewer than 16 hits. Rebekah Strom and Karly Brooks had the big sticks. Strom hammered a home run and two singles; Brooks tagged the ball for a double and two singles.

The Scorpions' opening-round win over North Marion was a nail-biter. The Scorpions won the game 3-2, with Jessica Crawley plating the winning run on a run-scoring double in the top of the fifth and final inning.

Sarah Hausler led off the top of the fifth with a walk and stole second and third. Crawley, a first-year player, then stepped to the plate with one down and ripped the ball for her game-winning two-bagger.

Thompson pitched a strong game, facing only 17 batters in five innings. She made it three-up and three-down in every inning but the fourth, when North Marion batters reached her for two hits and a walk, and scored their two runs.

Thompson pitched a no-hitter in the Scorpions' next game, striking out nine in a 13-0 victory over Colton.

The Scorpions then recorded a 6-1 decision over Redland and a 9-1 win over Gervais, to advance to the title game with Happy Valley.

Strom smashed a grand slam home run against Redland, while Thompson fanned 12 in a two-hitter.

Thompson (7 strikeouts, 2 walks) pitched a one-hitter against Gervais, a team that had been reclassified to the 'C' level after playing the regular season at the more competitive 'B' level.

Vying for the Scorpions in the county championship tournament were: Thompson (pitcher/first base), Crawley (first base), Hausler (outfield), Brooks (pitcher/third/first), Strom (shortstop/catcher), Echavarria (catcher/shortstop), Madeline Johnson (second base/outfield), Hollie Kunz (outfield/third base), Michelle Bryant (outfield), Annie Burton (outfield/second) and Caitlyn Quist (outfield).

Jon Hughes and Dave Strom coached the team with Welsh.

Welsh said the Scorpions will move up to the 14-U-B level next season. Six of the players who finished the 2006 season could remain at 12-and-under next season if they chose to do so, Welsh noted.