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Future bright for Pacer softball

Renegades claim second in 16B national tournament with a squad that was comprised mostly of Lakeridge players
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Members of the Renegades 16U softball team proudly display the plaques they received for finishing second in the 16B Western Nationals, which were in Salem two weeks ago.

'Eight games, girls,' coach Roy Rose told his Renegade 16U softball team before the squad headed to the national 16B tournament two weeks ago in Salem.

'(Win) eight games and we will be national champions, so let's take them one at a time, play loose and most of all enjoy the moment,' Rose continued.

The Lake Oswego Renegades had been preparing to win a national title for more than five years and this year was going to be the team's year. It was the Renegades' third trip to the national tournament, and Rose and his coaching had prepared them to go all the way this time.

The tournament, which started Thursday, Aug. 2, was broken into pools of four teams each, and the winner of each pool would advance to the championship bracket.

The Renegades faced a tough first game against the Extreme team from Cheyenne, Wyoming, but the LO team came out with a 5-1 victory. Renegades pitcher Natalie Rose led the way with 11 strikeouts.

The Renegades also benefited from one of the best defensive units in the tournament. That defense included Melonie Walsworth, Alex Scott, Mackenze Griffin and Chelsea Canlas in the infield while Alexis Graybeal, Hanna Steger and Zoe Teton made up the outfield.

The next game determined the pool champion and the Renegades prevailed with a 10-1 victory over the Rip City Rebels of Beaverton. The Renegades cruised to the victory behind the strong pitching of Paje Morrow.

After winning their pool, the Renegades began play in the championship bracket on Friday night, and they started off that round with a 6-1 victory over the South Valley Tiger Pride. The victory was keyed by Natalie Rose's solid pitching performance and the stingy defense of Alex Scott and Alexis Graybeal. Walsworth, Griffin and Natalie Rose provided the big hits on offense.

The victory over the Pride set up a Saturday morning showdown against the Boise Blast, a team the Renegades had lost to earlier in the year in a national qualifier tournament. Because of the importance of the game, the Renegades' coaching staff, which included Roy Rose, Jeff Scott, Tony Canlas, Dewey Griffin and Gary Walsworth, didn't get much sleep.

'We needed to keep the girls focused without making them uptight,' coach Rose said.

The game went nine innings, with two international tie-breakers, before Mackenzie Griffin scored the winning run on a single up the middle by short stop Chelsea Canlas.

Natalie Rose struck out 12 batters in that game and Melonie Walsworth, Taylor Ramsey, Steger and Whitney Tolar contributed key defensive plays to keep Blast scoreless in the extra innings.

'Okay, girls four more games,' coach Rose reminded the players after the game.

Next up was a game against the Clovis (Calif.) East Outlaws, a surprise winner over the Riverside All-Stars, the Southern California state champs. The Renegades kept their winning streak alive with an impressive 11-3 victory over Clovis.

'Offense was the key to our win,' coach Scott said. Impressive hitting performances from Steger, Alex Scott and Mackenze Griffin, and clutch defensive plays by Cassidy Klippel and Graybeal along with another solid pitching performance by Rose made the difference.

After another sleepless night, the Renegades beat the Bellevue Blast, who had beaten the LO team twice the year before. The Renegades won the game 4-1 with another strong pitching performance by Natalie Rose and clutch offensive games by Graybeal, Alex Scott, Melonie Walsworth and Ramsey.

Next up was a game against WAGS Thunder. Both teams had allowed only five runs to that point, and WAGS showed as it registered a 7-2 victory over the Renegades.

To stay alive in the tournament, the Renegades had to beat the Bellevue Blast again. New pitcher Cassidy Klippel was called on to start the game on the mound, and she delivered in a big way, going six innings while giving up only four hits and one run. Natalie Rose then pitched the last inning to preserve a 2-1 victory.

After moving from the mound to first base, Klippel contributed a clutch defensive play when she caught a line drive and turned it into a double play to end the game.

That moved the Renegades into the championship game, which brought a rematch against the WAGS Thunder. Despite some outstanding defensive plays by Zoe Teton, Tolar and Morrow, and a pair of doubles by Ramsey and Melonie Walsworth, the Renegades still lost the game 5-0. That left the LO team with second-place trophy.

'I would have loved to win the national championship,' coach Rose said. 'However … I could not be more proud of this small group of girls, mostly from Lakeridge High School … They represented the community of Lake Oswego in a manner that would make all of our citizens proud.'

The Renegades' showing marked the first time since the mid-1970s that an Oregon team advanced to the finals of the 16U national softball tournament, coach Rose said.

The team's incredible run through regionals and then nationals should bode for the Lakeridge High School team in the near future.

'I feel really strongly in saying that Lakeridge will contend for a league title next year,' Rose said. 'The following year, the goal will be to win a state title.'