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The skys the limit, if they can play catch

OC coeds are hot and cold in preseason

OREGON CITY - If Oregon City players can stay focused and play catch without throwing the ball away, Oregon City coach Dave Adelhart believes his two-time defending Three Rivers League champion Pioneers can be one of the top high school softball teams in the state again this year.

McKenzie Marshall, a two-time TRL 'pitcher of the year,' and shortstop Taylor Belmont, the 2010 TRL 'player of the year,' have graduated, along with all-league infielders Kate Schimmel and Regan Drake.

But Adelhart believes he's got good replacements.

'We've had two great games and two games with errors to start the year,' said Adelhart. 'And it's veteran players, not newcomers, who are making the mistakes. It tells me we've got to concentrate and focus making our plays, and not take too much for granted.'

Following a 5-1 win over 2010 PIL 5A champion Cleveland on March 22, Adelhart said, 'We played the game of our lives. We played fantastic softball. We played to our potential. It showed the kids exactly what kind of team they can be.'

Adelhart said the Pioneers played error-free ball in the game. First baseman Heather Winslow, who earned first-team all-league honors as an outfielder last season, hit a home run, and freshman pitcher Megan Kirchem fanned five batters.

The Pioneers also picked up a big win on March 21, when they defeated 2010 6A finalist Sunset 3-2, avenging a 4-3 loss to the Apollos in last year's 6A quarterfinals.

'We came out fired up for that game,' said Adelhart. 'We came out swinging our bats. We scored three runs in the first inning and then held them off.'

Junior Joscelyn Park, Marshall's backup a year ago, pitched in last week's game with Sunset. The Apollos put the ball in play, but Park's teammates supported her with near flawless defensive play.

In other preseason games, the Pioneers committed four errors in an 8-3 loss to Penddleton, and four errors in one inning in a 6-1 loss to Forest Grove.

'We didn't have the intensity we had [in the wins over Sunset and Cleveland],' said Adelhart. 'We booted the ball and beat ourselves.'

Adelhart says he's got three good pitchers who will attempt to fill the void left by Marshall - Park, Kirchem and sophomore Regan Drake.

The trio have a pretty good supporting caste.

The Pioneers return experienced players at first base (Winslow), second (junior Melissa Taylor), shortstop (junior Rachel Roberts), third (senior Haley Rayburn) and catcher (senior Morgan Davey).

Davey was a second-team all-league selection at catcher last season. Rayburn and Taylor garnered honorable mention in the league all-star balloting.

A third-year varsity player, Roberts started in centerfield last year.

In the outfield, Adelhart is going with Kirchem, when she isn't pitching, senior Sheyla Trudo, sophomore Stefanie Snow and junior Sydney Palmer.

Trudo saw quite a bit of action last season, filling in for Roberts when Roberts was sidelined by an injury.

Adelhart says that although his squad has the potential to be one of the top teams in the state, it won't be a cakewalk in the TRL this year.

'You're going to have to bring your 'A' game every game, because anyone is going to be capable of beating anyone on a given night,' he said. 'The Three Rivers League is going to be tough from top to bottom.'

In upcoming preseason games, the Pioneers host Aloha this Thursday and they entertain Southridge on Thursday, April 7. League play begins Monday, April 11, with a home game with Canby.