Six local teens help Rip City take second

Hit, hit and hit some more.

Jockeying a dominant offensive attack that stacked an impressive amount of runs as well as solid pitching and an improved defense, the Rip City Rage took second place at the 2013 ASA Western National Tournament in Medford two weeks ago.

On the wings and bats of Beaverton's Lauren Jaekel (Stoller Middle School), Taylor Alto (Rachel Carson Middle School), Ariel Carlson, (Stoller), Kelsey Day (Stoller), Abby Wingo (Meadow Park Middle School) and Gavyn Shafer (Aloha), the Rage shot up the Western National Ranks, knocking off a slew of teams from California and Washington, amongst others.

Wingo and Carlson were Rip City's top two hurlers who carried the pitching duties for the Rage all season. Day led the squad with four over the fence homers and several stand-up doubles while playing a standout first base.

“We wouldn't be Rip City without the Beaverton girls,” said assistant coach David Jones. “Softball's always been good in Beaverton. We have a bunch of girls who are going to play at Sunset (High), and it's great they're part of the club.”

A year after placing 39th at the Western Nationals, Rip City completed a staggering turnaround with its second-place prize. Wingo said since last season Rip City focused intently on its approaches at the plate and improving physical strength. The extra power was especially helpful trying to size up some of the faster pitchers from Southern California and make consistent contact.

“We had a lot of extra bases, doubles, triples, home runs this year,” said Day. “I don't think there was a 12U team in Oregon that hit more home runs than we did. It was cool that they weren't close games, so that felt good. We were playing really well as a team. I felt like we understood our strengths and weaknesses, so we could help each other.”

Carlson said the Rage brought the big lumber to the ball park all summer, hitting 11 home runs as a team and seven that cleared the fence. Rip City averaged 7.55 runs a game while hitting .420 as a team. Against one of the California squads in the quarterfinals, Carlson hit a walk-off homer that sent Rip City to the semifinals.

“The girls that didn't hit home runs had a lot of base hits and then got on base so we could hit them in,” said Carlson.

Jones said head coach Greg Garcia was invaluable in helping the girls fine-tune their swings, and the team was much more solid defensively.

“The mistakes they made before, they didn't make this year,” said Jones. “But, it's hard to beat a team when they score 18 runs on you. Our team survives by hitting. All 12 girls can hit, and that's how we do it.”

Rip City broke through the state level by winning the ASA Oregon Championship after taking third the past three seasons. Wingo mentioned the state crown was especially sweet because they beat their longtime nemesis, Oregon City Nightmare in the title game. Jones said beating Oregon City was Rip City's main goal before the season started, even more so than winning a Western National trophy.

“They won state the last two years, so it felt nice to knock them off their throne a little bit,” said Day.

“Me and Ariel are both going to Sunset, so it feels good to bring it back for Portland, not just Oregon,” added Wingo.

Wingo pointed out Rip City was essentially the same team from last year with the exception of a couple newcomers. Wingo, Carlson, and Day agreed the team's solidarity was better than it was last season and helped the team pile up 46 wins this summer. The ASA squad was comprised of girls from all across the Portland area who go to different middle schools, but their chemistry was unshakable.

“We knew each other a lot better, those two years of playing together really made a difference,” said Carlson. “We had a lot of team sleepovers that helped us get to know each other, talking about our strengths and weaknesses, what we like, what we don't like. That helped us a lot.”

When the Rage went to away tournaments in Medford or Bend, the girls all traveled together in the same bus that was purchased by a group of team parents. As a team, they went to the Wildlife Safari the day before the Medford tournament, and they've done charity work at local food banks together.

“We were used to each other, and we jelled better," said Wingo. “It wasn't all softball work all the time. We got to have some fun, and I think that helped us.” by: COURTESY PHOTO: HOLLY DAY - The Rip City Rage took second at 2013 ASA Western National Tournament in Medford after winning the 2013 Oregon State Championship.

Rip City took on the Northwest Explosion from Walla Walla, Wash., in the Western National Championship game, and though the Rage dropped the decision, the experience was unforgettable. Before the game started, Rip City and Northwest Explosion lined up on the first and third base chalk lines for the National Anthem. When the Rage when up to bat, the players' names were announced over the loud speakers, adding to the memorable contest.

“It felt like a professional game and a college game, so it was really cool,” said Carlson.

“It felt like we were in college,” said Wingo. “Since a lot of those teams are from California and get to play year-round, it was cool to beat all of them.”

“It mattered that we lost but was still an accomplishment what we we got,” said Day. “We were playing really well as a team. I felt like we understood our strengths and weaknesses, so we could help each other.”

With the second-place national finish, Rip City qualified for the 2014 National Tournament in San Diego, and the team's playing an annual tourney in Colorado as well. The core of the Rage has been together for four years, and Jones hopes to keep the team intact throughout the players' high school careers.

“It takes a special group of girls to get that kind of closeness on a travel team,” said Jones. “Often times you see players come in and out, but this team is close-knit. Our goal is to go to nationals and represent Oregon well, and we think we'll do that — win or lose.”

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