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Pioneers will figure in the mix

Sophomore McKenzie Marshall fans 24 in her first three starts

OREGON CITY - Oregon City High School softballers are riding high as they launch their 2008 campaign.

That's because they've got eight veterans returning from last year's team that dropped a 3-2 barnburner to eventual state champion Forest Grove in the first round of last year's state playoffs, after placing third in the Three Rivers League.

'You've got to give Putnam the nod as favorite,' said Oregon City coach Dave Adelhart. 'But after that it's wide open. Our goal is to keep the pressure on Putnam to stay in that No. 1 spot and take care of business with everyone else.

'The team as a whole is motivated. The seniors all have played on varsity at least three years. They know the league and they know what it takes to get it done.'

The Pioneers return three first-team all-league selections in senior Brianna Winkle (outfield), junior Rachael Strong (catcher) and sophomore Taylor Belmont (shortstop).

Winkle earned first-team all-state honors last season as a designated hitter.

Sophomore pitcher McKenzie Marshall is among three returning Oregon City players who were second-team all-league selections a year ago.

'McKenzie's gotten stronger and she's matured a lot,' said Adelhart. 'She had 24 strikeouts in our first three games.'

Seniors Samie Genskay (second base) and Chelsea Mitchell (centerfield) joined Marshall on last year's TRL's second all-star team.

Junior third baseman Mary Lugar also gained some notice last season, when she garnered honorable mention in the all-league balloting.

The Pioneers also return a veteran outfielder in senior Jess Anderson, who started in several games a year ago.

The Pioneers were impressive last Tuesday when they bounced always tough Lake Oswego 2-1 in their league opener, played at Lake Oswego.

Marshall was especially tough down the stretch, keeping the Lakers off the scoreboard in the final three innings. The up-and-coming Pioneer hurler fanned seven and issued just one walk in a two-hitter.

The Pioneers scored the game-winner in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of a Laker miscue.

Strong drew a base-on-balls to lead off the sixth. Courtesy runner Tori Hubbard advanced to second on Regan Drake's groundout and scored when a Laker infielder overthrew first base on a ground ball by Amber Cox.

The Pioneers struck out only three times and they reached Lake Oswego senior Taylor Hemzacek for eight hits.

Genskay, Mitchell and Katlyn Taylor (double) came through with two hits apiece for the victors.

Oregon City got on the scoreboard in the first inning on a base hit by Genskay, two fielder's choices, a groundout, and a run-scoring, two-out single to left-center by Taylor.

The Lakers scored in the fourth on an error and a run-scoring double by Hemzacek.

'We left 10 runners on base, so we need to work on hitting people in,' said Adelhart.

The Pioneers (2-2, 1-0) had four games scheduled in Bend this week. They return to league play next Monday, when they meet Clackamas (2-1, 2-0) on the road.