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Hawk makes the grade at school but not on the ice

Defenseman Lenny Thunderchild left the Portland Winter Hawks last week, but not before accomplishing the most impressive thing in his life by getting his high school diploma.

Owner Jack Donovan says Thunderchild 'was a basket case' educationally when he arrived in Portland and before he got the diploma in June. 'That was as big a win as we had all last year,' Donovan adds. 'You can take the seventh (playoff) game against Seattle and it doesn't hold a candle to what that kid achieved.'

Says coach Mike Williamson: 'He made big strides. We thought it would never happen.'

But Williamson says Thunderchild, an 18-year-old defenseman who was expected to be in Portland's regular rotation, showed up at training camp this year 30 pounds overweight and finished last in fitness testing.

'We really could have used him,' Williamson says. 'I was pushing Lenny very hard to get him in shape and to get a feel for where his commitment was.'

Fries with that trophy?

The Portland Beavers never were contenders this year, but how about the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes? They won their third Class A Northwest League title in nine years, going 55-21 in the regular season (the first NWL team to win more than 54 games in 40 years) and beating Boise three games to one in the title series.

Meanwhile, in a case of Leave It to Ex-OSU Beaver, third baseman Brian Barden helped the Tucson Sidewinders sweep Round Rock (Texas) 3-0 in the Pacific Coast League championship series.

Barden, who played for Oregon State from 2000 to 2002, sealed the deal with a two-run homer in the finale. Tucson will meet the Toledo Mud Hens, champions of the International League, in a one-game Triple-A championship match today in Oklahoma City.

The Portland Beavers do have a major victory to celebrate, although it came off the diamond. Multimillionaire owner Abe Alizadeh of Sacramento was named Jack in the Box's franchisee of the year.

- Tribune staff