Clackamas has been hitting up a storm in preseason

Clackamas High School’s two-time defending Three Rivers League champion softball team has some shoes to fill, with the loss of eight players to graduation — including standouts like all-state catcher Vanessa Oaken, all-league infielder Mariah Scholes and all-league outfielder Missy Noble.

But anyone who overlooks the Cavaliers does so at their own peril. Clackamas is not without talent.

The Cavaliers have eight experienced players returning from last year’s team. And the returnees are hungry, with a bitter memory of last year’s exit from the state playoffs — a second-round loss to Tualatin during a relentless rain — still on their minds.

“I’m really pleased with these kids,” said Clackamas coach Dave Just. “They’re athletes. We’ve got 14 kids on our roster and they can all swing the bat. We’ve hit pretty well in our first few games....

“It’s just a matter of finding the best combinations of players. It’s going to come down to whoever is hitting is going to play. I’m going to put my nine best hitters on the field.”

Comparing this year’s squad to last year’s Just says, “I think we’re deeper than last year, and I think we’re quicker.”

And the Cavaliers have been hitting up a storm in preseason. They had a team batting average of .386, with 59 hits, in their first six games.

The Cavaliers are once again solid at pitcher, with the return of senior Madisen Vrabel and junior Amanda Zehr.

Zehr was TRL “pitcher of the year” last spring, and Vrabel was a first-team all-league pitcher and a second-team all-league infielder.

Other returnees include: senior Corey Erickson, and juniors Ashley Filler, McKenzie Giancola, Jade Haehlen, Sammy Haehlen and Cassie Haehlen.

Filler returns to centerfield, where she earned first-team all-league recognition as a sophomore.

Giancola returns to shortstop, where she was also a first-team all-league selection.

Jade Haehlen, an honorable mention TRL all-star as a sophomore, has been starting at third base.

Sammy Haehlen has moved in from the outfield to play first base.

Cassie Haehlen returns to start at either second base or catcher.

The position of catcher has been the Cavaliers’ greatest conundrum. Haehlen, Erickson, sophomore Alize Godinez and freshman Julianna Behunin have all given the position a try in early preseason. And Just says the jury is still out on who is going to win the spot.

Just says that he’s had freshman Maddy Oakden playing second base when Cassie Haehlen has played catcher.

Just says he’ll continue to shuffle his lineup in preseason, as he attempts to find other starters in the outfield and the right combination in the infield.

Among others on the Cavalier varsity roster are: junior Alexis Godinez and sophomores Bre Cox and Jill Hoppel.

The Cavaliers have had mixed results in preseason, as Just has been more concerned with discovering his strongest lineup, than with winning ball games. The Cavaliers posted wins over David Douglas (11-1), Centennial (10-3) and Aloha (10-4), but they came up short in games with Reynolds (2-1), Beaverton (9-8 in extra innings) and Putnam (7-2).

“We left 13 kids on base in the Reynolds game,” Just observed. “We hit well against David Douglas. Amanda Zehr pitched and she had a home run in that game. We won 11-1 in five innings and she had 13 strikeouts.”

Just said his Cavaliers turned a triple play in the narrow loss to Beaverton, and Giancola hit a solo home run in the loss to Putnam.

Top sluggers for the Cavaliers in preseason have been: Oakden (.600, 3-for-5), Giancola (.550, 11-for-20, 9 RBI, 7 runs), Sammy Haehlen (.500, 8-for-16, 5 runs, 3 RBI), Jade Haehlen (.471, 8-for-17, 6 RBI, 3 runs) and Filler (.389, 7-for-18, 5 RBI, 3 runs).

Zehr has 17 strikeouts in 21-2/3 innings of work.

The Cavaliers (3-3) play Central Catholic on the road this Thursday. They conclude the preseason next week, hosting West Salem on Monday and playing Forest Grove on the road on Thursday, April 10.

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