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The Cavaliers tighten their grip on first place in the TRL with wins over OC, Lakeridge and West Linn

The Clackamas Cavaliers last week tightened their grip on first place in the Three Rivers League softball standings, running their league record to 9-0 with wins over Oregon City (8-1), Lakeridge (2-0) and West Linn (11-1 in five innings).

Last week’s rout of West Linn was the Cavaliers 16th win in a row — after a 0-3 start to the 2013 season.

The Cavaliers (16-3, 9-0) entered play this week three games up on second-place Oregon City (11-7, 6-3), with but six games remaining on the league season.

“We knew this was a talented group,” said Clackamas coach Dave Just. “These kids have great skills. It was just a matter of being patient and putting all of the pieces together.... They trust in one another, they communicate and they’re playing together. They’re really in a groove....

“The kids are having a lot of fun. It’s been a really great run, with a good group of kids.”

The Cavaliers have not only been playing solid defense behind pitchers Madison Vrabel and Amanda Zehr, but they’re getting contributions on offense all through the lineup.

Through play last week the team batting average was .324, and six players — McKenzie Giancola, Melissa Noble, Vanessa Oakden, Cassie Haehlen, Jessica Engle and Mariah Scholes — had combined to hit 12 home runs.

Giancola and Noble had three home runs apiece through play last week.

“We’re getting production [with our bats] all through the lineup, which was something we weren’t getting at the start of the season,” Just said. “Sydney Opoka, was batting in the nine spot in the Lakeridge game when she hit a RBI-single.... Our 7-8-9 batters are getting on base and the top of the order is hitting the ball consistently.”

The Cavaliers stung the ball for 13 hits, played error-free defense, and Vrabel (2 strikeouts, 4 walks) threw a 2-hitter in last Thursday’s 11-1 five-inning game with West Linn.

Clackamas took charge early, with Oakden (2-for-3) following up Noble’s (2-for-3) first-inning base hit with a two-run home run to left field.

Cassie Haehlen (2-for-3) smacked a two-run single and Allie Anderegg hit a two-run double in a four-run third inning.

Ashley Filler hit a two-run single in the fifth frame, and Giancola (2-for-4) followed with a three-run home run to end the game through the 10-run rule.

The Cavaliers got outhit 6-4 in last week’s 2-0 win at Lakeridge. But they played near-flawless defense and they made the best of their scoring opportunities.

Clackamas got on board on a two-out single by Opoka in the top of the fourth. Cassie Haehlen reached on a fielder’s choice; Engle walked; and Opoka brought Haehlen around with a single to left.

Filler reached on an error to lead off the fifth. She stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.

Lakeridge’s biggest scoring threat came in the bottom of the third, when the Pacers connected for three of their six hits. Following a lead-off single, Oakden gunned down the runner stealing second. Following two more singles and a groundout, Opoka hauled down a fly ball in left field to end the inning.

Zehr and Vrabel shared pitching duties, combining for two strikeouts and walking two batters.

Patience at the plate and timely hitting told the tale in last week’s 8-1 win at Oregon City. The Cavaliers earned only an 8-6 edge in hitting and they struck out nine times off of the pitching of Oregon City sophomore Devin Hally. But they reached Hally for eight walks, and they took full advantage, scoring runs in four different innings.

With the score tied at 1-1, the Cavaliers put the winning run on the scoreboard in the second frame. Vrabel drew a walk, courtesy runner Opoka advanced on a sacrifice by Cassie Haehlen. Anderegg drew a walk and the baserunners advanced to second and third on a wild pitcher. Sammie Haehlen then plated the game-winner with a RBI-groundout, and Filler (3-for-5) followed with a RBI-single for an insurance tally.

Noble (2-for-3) had a triple, a double, two runs scored and two RBI in the winning effort.

Vrabel pitched a complete game, striking out three and walking four.

The Cavaliers play Lake Oswego (0-12, 0-9) at Lake Oswego this afternoon and they entertain Oregon City on Friday in their final TRL game with the Pioneers.

Clackamas finishes up the league season next week, hosting Lakeridge (9-10, 3-6) on Monday (May 6), playing at West Linn (9-9, 5-4) on May 8, and playing at Canby on Thursday, May 9.

“This Friday’s game [with Oregon City] is our breast-cancer awareness fund-raising game,” said Just. “The girls will wear pink jerseys and socks and they’ve pre-sold tee-shirts, with the proceeds going to the Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation. We’ll also be taking donations. We’re hoping for a big crowd.”

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