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Renegades headed to nationals again

For the second time in three years, the Lake Oswego Renegades 14-U B girls fastpitch softball team has earned a trip to the Western national softball championships.

After a seventh-place finish in the 2005 state tournament and a second-place finish in 2004, the Renegades have brought the 2006 Oregon state championship home to Lake Oswego by defeating the Junior Eagles of Eagle Point in an intense extra-inning title game.

The Renegades went 43-16-2 this season, which included two first-place finishes in weekend tournaments. The Renegades will now represent Lake Oswego and Oregon in August at the Western national championships in Aurora, Colo.

The Renegades made their journey to the state title game look easy. They won their first five tournament games while posting three straight shutouts in the process. Casey Bearden, Paje Morrow, and Natalie Rose made up a pitching staff that accounted for those shutouts. Ten batters in the Renegade lineup sported .300-plus batting averages, including Alex Scott, Whitney Tolar, Alexis Graybeal Mackenzie Griffin, Taylor Ramsey, Hanna Steger, Caitlin Hoddevik, Bearden, Morrow, and Rose. In the five games leading up to the championship showdown, the Renegades allowed only five runs to the opposition while scoring 41 runs of their own.

The Renegades put together a masterpiece in the title game. The girls were strong early, getting their first two batters, Steger and Griffin, on base in the first inning. Rose brought both runners around on a long single. The Junior Eagles fired back, doing nearly the exact same thing, knotting the game at 2-2. The Renegades then fell into a 5-2 hole in the bottom of the fourth inning on strong hitting and base running by the Junior Eagles.

In the fifth inning, Lake Oswego brought the score back to 5-5 as Steger scored on a double by Rose, Walsworth (running for Rose) scored on a wild pitch and Graybeal scored on a sacrifice fly by Ramsey. A defensive struggle ensued through the seventh inning, when the time limit forced the game into an international tiebreaker, in which each team starts its half of the inning with a runner at second base. The Renegades, as the visiting team, sent Steger to second. After battling off a couple pitches, Rose's double scored Steger, and set the tone for what appeared to be even more scoring.

Then, Graybeal laid down a bunt and took first base as the Junior Eagles focused on preventing a run from scoring. But Graybeal stole second base, putting two Renegade runners in scoring position. Morrow then bunted to load the bases. Ramsey followed by sending a hard hit ball back to the pitcher. The pitcher quickly got the out at home and then the Junior Eagles' catcher turned the double play at first. A pop fly ended the inning with the Renegades leading 6-5.

Then it was the Junior Eagles' turn at the plate while a designated runner started out at second. The Junior Eagle's first batter sent a ball deep into the outfield. But Steger fielded the ball and threw home in time to keep the runner from scoring from second. The Renegades then intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases.

On the next play, the Renegade pitcher uncorked a wild pitch, which prompted the Junior Eagles' runner on third to head for home. But the ball careened off of the backstop, Ramsey grabbed it and tagged the runner out at home to keep the Renegades' lead intact at 6-5 with one out.

Another intentional walk loaded the bases one more time. A scorching rise ball and a baffling curve ball enabled Rose to strike out the next batter. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Junior Eagles' next batter sent a dribbler to the second baseman, Hoddevik, who then made the toss to Griffin at first for the final out, securing the championship in the process.

Unlike many of their opponents, the Renegades are truly a community team with nine of the 13 players attending Lakeridge High School next year. Team members will now be soliciting contributions from local residents and businesses to help cover the cost to traveling to Colorado next month.