Next year was almost this year for the Lake Oswego High School softball team.

To decipher that statement, the Lake O girls of Coach Don Hunt had a 6-12 record (12-13 overall) in Three Rivers League play, leaving them ahead of only celler dweller Milwaukie.

But the Lakers were only a few runs away from reversing that record and making the state playoffs, and Hunt can't be blamed for thinking 'what might have been.'

'We're very young and inexperienced, but we actually played pretty well,' said the veteran softball mentor. 'We should have beaten all of the top four teams in the league. Six of our league losses were by one run and all of them were unearned.

'We just couldn't close the deal this season.'

Still, Hunt said, 'The only bad thing about our year was the record. This was one of the funnest seasons I've had in coaching in years.'

'Phenomenal' was the adjective Hunt used to describe every other aspect of the season, including parents, administration, and especially his 2008 senior class.

'My senior class was the best one I've had in years,' Hunt said. 'They really understood their role in teaching our younger kids and they did a great job. What they did will set us up for success for the next few seasons.'

Hunt will be saying goodbye to some great players.

Like gutsy pitcher Taylor Hemzacek, who made the Lakers competitive in a very tough district.

'Taylor went 11-9 for the season, but she should have been 17-3,' Hunt said. 'Six of her losses came in games we gave away. Taylor was our team captain and she's a great, great kid.'

Maggie Sholian was 'by far the best catcher in our league.' She batted a smashing .463, with 3 homers and 18 RBI. Sholian was such a dangerous hitter she was intentionally walked 9 times. She has already signed a letter of intent to play softball for Providence College in Rhode Island.

Other fine seniors are second baseman Chloe Longfellow and leftfielder Cori Groza.

Even though the disappointment of the losing season is still fresh, Hunt reverts to his typical optimistic mode when discussing the future, since he has so many talented players returning in 2009.

Some of the best are centerfielder Julia Klitzke, who batted .382 with 20 RBI; freshman Mollie Pyle, who batted .373 with 22 base hits; and sophomore Caitlyn Fraser, who batted .362.

One of the most intriguing returnees will be first baseman Jacqui Jenkins. She batted a respectable .273 as a sophomore, but Hunt says she easily could have batted .500.

'Jacqui hit 20 rockets straight at people,' he said. 'One of them rebounded off the pitcher and went straight into the hands of the first baseman for an out.' Hunt added, 'She's also a great pitcher.'

As for next year, Hunt said, 'We'll have a great team core. We'll have a great, great freshman class joining our very, very good freshman class from this year.'

So it appears that everything about the '09 Laker softball team could be phenomenal. Including the record.

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