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Lakers improve playoff positioning

If Lake Oswego softball coach Don Hunt was handing out game balls, the one Monday would have gone to Taylor Hemzacek.

Subbing for Lauren DeWeese, who is no longer with the team, Hemzacek pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout while striking out eight batters in her team's 1-0 victory over Milwaukie.

'We won today because of Taylor. She pitched phenomenal,' Hunt said after the victory, which gave the Lakers (7-6) a two-game lead over West Linn for the TRL's fourth and final playoff spot.

But it wasn't just Hemzacek's pitching that made the difference. She also doubled in the game's only run in the fifth inning.

'Do you think she had a game?' Hunt asked rhetorically.

Freshman Caitlyn Frasier scored that run when she walked, stole second and scored on Hemzacek's hit with two outs.

The slim margin of victory was actually somewhat misleading. The Lakers hit the ball hard most of the game but it was often right at a defensive player.

Meanwhile, Lakeridge experienced its share of hard luck through the middle portion of the league season. But the Pacers seemingly turned things around during the last week.

After an early season victory over Milwaukie, the Pacers dropped their next seven league games, which knocked them into sixth place in the TRL. But the Pacers rebounded from that slump to win two of their last three, including Monday's 13-0 win over West Linn.

'We had a good day. We got the bats to come alive,' Pacers coach Gene Chamberlain said.

The Pacers have had trouble scoring runs this season and have seldom scored more than three during league play. So, Monday's outburst was almost the equivalent of a week's worth of softball for the Pacers.

The big hitter that day was catcher Taylor Ramsey, who went 2 for 3, including a three-run homer, and knocked in five runs for the game. She got plenty of help from her teammates as McKenzie Griffin, Melanie Walsworth and Zoe Teton each drove in a pair of runs.

Natalie Rose also had a big game on the mound as she pitched a two-hit shutout to go with five strikeouts. Normally, Rose is a big strikeout pitcher. Her high this season was 14 and she's had 12 on two occasions.

Rose also has had a lot of help from her defense, which has helped keep the Pacers in a number of games. That was one of the keys when Lakeridge recently lost a 1-0 decision to Putnam.

And no longer are the Pacers going home early after falling behind by 10 runs or more.

'We're playing every game out to seven,' the coach said.

After that mid-season slump, it's probably too late for the Pacers to have a shot at the playoffs this season. But this year's team is very young, so Lakeridge could be a force next year and the year after.

Maybe there will be a little payback in the cards for all of the teams that clobbered Lakeridge during the last three years or so.

'I hope so,' Chamberlain said. 'What goes around comes around.'