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PIL softball may rise to state occasion

Grant softball coach Debbie Englestad is hoping that the four Portland Interscholastic League softball teams that reach the state playoffs will win some games this season, helping justify her voting in the state coaches poll.

Englestad is the PIL's representative for the poll and says she usually votes the PIL leader at No. 10. Usually, that's the only vote any PIL team receives. Last year, all four PIL playoff teams lost their first game in the playoffs.

'No one gives us any respect,' she says, 'but that's because we don't win too often in the playoffs.'

This week, PIL leader Benson received three votes in the coaches poll.

Grant, which scored a key 4-2 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday, is following a similar path as most of the league Ñ with a young team that hopes to develop into a winner at the state level. Benson has just two seniors on its squad. Many of the PIL's top players also play on summer American Softball Association teams.

'It's going to take a lot of effort in summer Ñ and keeping these teams together Ñ for us to win at state,' Englestad says. 'If that happens, we at least have a chance.'

BASEBALL: Wilson scored an impressive pair of wins Monday and Tuesday and set itself up for a share of the league title for the first time since 1989. The Trojans beat Lincoln 2-0 on Monday and Grant 5-3 on Tuesday.

Pitcher Tyler O'Bryant struck out six and worked around seven hits to toss a complete game against Lincoln. Kacy Fairfax had four hits and drove in four runs in Tuesday's game to support Evan Dunn, who pitched into the seventh inning with no strikeouts and just two walks.

Tuesday's win left Wilson and Grant tied atop the league standings with only one loss each.

'It's a great win because it gives us a lot of confidence and momentum heading toward the state playoffs,' said Fairfax, who also had two hits against Lincoln.

If Wilson and Grant end up tied at the close of the regular season, they would play a game to determine seeding in the state playoffs.

Grant is scheduled to play host to Franklin today and has a game with third-place Lincoln scheduled for Wednesday.

GOLF: Senior Cassie Castleman of Lincoln won the PIL girls title for the second straight year at Rose City Golf Course on Wednesday but says she's far from ready for the state tournament Ñ which she won last year.

'I need to get a lot better,' she says. 'I finally found my swing, but the rest of my game, the mental part, especially, needs to get a lot better.'

Castleman beat Grant junior May Lynn Chu by one stroke for the PIL title. Castleman rebounded from a four-putt on the par-5 10th hole to shoot 2-under on the next four holes and finished with a 4-over 78. Chu shot a 79.

Chu, who's been playing for 10 years, happily finished second and says she's hoping for a top-10 finish at the state tournament May 19-20 at Langdon Farms in Aurora.

'I played as well as I could,' she says of her PIL tournament play. 'Losing by one stroke isn't tough at all because I improved a lot from last year.'

The shot of the day belonged to Roosevelt sophomore Gloria Garcia, who hit her tee shot on No. 15, an 85-yard par 3, to within a foot of the hole. She rolled in the putt for the first birdie of her life.

'There was some pressure on that putt,' says Garcia, who finished at 127 for the day.

TENNIS: Being a promising junior in the Portland Interscholastic League is a tough position these days because of the strong sophomore class. No one's more aware of this than Roosevelt junior Ben Schmitt.

Schmitt has been playing tennis for four years but hasn't had the resources to play in tournaments or practice much. Until recently, he traded labor for court time at the St. Johns Racquet Center, which helped him become the Roughriders' No. 1 player, earning a 4-5 record at that spot this spring.

But that hasn't helped him win a game against the league's top players. He lost 6-0, 6-0 to Wilson senior Eric Pickard during the regular season. The other top players in the league are sophomores Tommy Hicks of Grant and Joel Kincaid and Charlie Cutler of Lincoln, all of whom should return next year and take up three of the four state tournament spots that the PIL is awarded each year.

'I need to improve a lot to be able to play with those guys,' Schmitt says. 'But that's my goal. I want to be able to get a college scholarship.'

Schmitt plans to spend the summer playing USTA junior tournaments.

'He's got some talent,' Roosevelt coach George Young says. 'He just hasn't hit a zillion balls like those other guys.'

NOTES: Grant girls basketball standout Cicely Oaks has made it official Ñ she's headed to Oregon. 'I'm very happy to be going to Oregon,' says Oaks, who's glad the recruiting process is over.

Contact Cliff Pfenning at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..