Lakeridge High School may have the fastest-rising softball program in the state.
The Pacers put in their claim by wrapping up a second place tie with Oregon City in the Three Rivers League and earning a state playoff berth this week.
This accomplishment is especially impressive in light of the fact that is wasn't so long ago that the Lakeridge girls had a losing streak of 100 games. Coach Gene Chamberlain and standout players like pitcher Natalie Rose have truly turned the program around.
'I am really, really, really proud of this team, considering we were 0-100 four years ago,' Chamberlain said. 'I couldn't be happier.'
Now the going gets really tough. Because Oregon City, which tied Lakeridge for second in league, finished ahead in their head-to-head matchup this season, the Pacers must now travel to face number one ranked Jesuit on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Awesome as that assignment is, you can't count the Pacers out because they finished the regular season with tremendous momentum. They edged Lake Oswego 2-1 last Friday, then thumped league basement dweller Milwaukie 5-0 on Monday. That left Lakeridge with an 11-7 season record.
As she has been all season, Rose was superb in both contests. The junior standout struck out 15 against Lake Oswego and allowed only 25 batters to get to the plate.
'Lake Oswego played us really tough,' Chamberlain said.
But the Pacers scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning when Hanna Steger raced home when Alex Scott got caught in a pickle between first and second. Scott eluded the tag, and Lakeridge had its fourth straight win over its cross-town rival.
Rose was even better against the young Milwaukie team, striking out 16 and hurling a shutout.
She got batting support from Scott, 2 for 2, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Lexi Graybeal, 2 for 2, 2 runs; and Taylor Ramsey, 2 for 3.
Lakeridge's hopes against Jesuit rest on a dominating pitcher in Rose, who has struck out 146 batters this season, and four Pacers batting over .300 - Mackenzie Griffin (team-leading .436), Graybeal, Zoe Teton and Taylor Ramsey. Lakeridge also boasts a stout defense, with standouts including Graybeal in center field and Ramsey at catcher.
While top-ranked Jesuit might end Lakeridge's outstanding season on Friday, the future is brilliant. There is not a single senior on this year's Pacer team.
In any case, Chamberlain is going to enjoy being in the playoffs.
'It's been quite a while,' he said.