by: Miles Vance, 
Lakeridge’s Zoe Teton prepares to field a ball in the outfield during the Pacers’ 7-0 loss to Jesuit last week. The Crusaders are the top-ranked team in the state.

It's tough to win in the state playoffs when you have to face the number one team right off the bat.

That is what happened to the Lakeridge High School softballers when they fell 7-0 to Jesuit on May 16 in Beaverton.

The Crusaders struck early, rallying for six runs in the first inning with a surge that included a three-run homer.

'If you could eliminate Jesuit's half of the first inning it was a 1-0 ball game,' said Lakeridge Head Coach Gene Chamberlain. 'Once we figured out what to do it was too late. That first inning went from bad to worse.

'It was an unfortunate draw for us.'

Jesuit's brilliant senior pitcher Paige Hall kept the Pacers from making any comebacks by tossing a two-hitter.

Still, this is a defeat that Lakeridge softball can take in stride. From a winless laughing stock a few years ago, the Pacers surged into the state playoffs this year. Even better, the future looks oh so bright.

That is because everybody will be returning for the Pacers next season. Everybody.

'Everyone knows we've come absolutely miles from where we were three years ago,' Chamberlain said. 'The kids really improved. Our girls made it their goal to reach the playoffs, and they did it.'

The roster for 2009 will include two first team Three Rivers League selections in pitcher Natalie Rose (through 18 games she went 11-7 with a 1.70 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 121 innings) and slugging first baseman McKenzie Griffin, who hit .431 with 25 hits, 12 RBI, .500 slugging percentage, and fielded a slick .976.

A big group of sophomores will be returning, including second baseman Melanie Walsworth, shortstop Chelsea Canlas, third baseman Alex Scott, and rightfielder Hanna Steger. Besides Rose and Griffin, the junior class will include leftfielder Zoey Teton, catcher Taylor Ramsey and centerfielder-shortstop Alexis Graybeal.

Three freshmen were on the varsity roster this year and Chamberlain raved, 'They all did a super job.' They are Claire McKinney, Alex Pyle and Samantha Evans.

Adding to Chamberlain's blessings next year will be a couple of incoming freshman standouts.

'I'm really pleased with where we are and what the future looks like,' Chamberlain said.

Only one more thing could make the veteran coach happier. That is the formation of a JV team next season.

'We really need one,' Chamberlain said. 'You need at least 12 players to form a JV team. Maybe the season we had will help get kids out.'

Before closing the book on the '08 season, Chamberlain had a few kudos to pass out.

'Our assistant coach (his daughter Trissa Davis) installed some things that advanced our overall play. She did a fantastic job. Our parents did a super job this year.'

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