by: VERN UYETAKE Caroline MacAusland is one of two talented returning pitchers for West Linn this year.

The West Linn softball team is coming off one of its best seasons in years and returns all but one senior from that squad. With that said, the Lions hope to be in the mix for a league title this year and should be one of the more formidable teams around.

'We expect to compete with everybody. As always, it's going to boil down to timely hits and good pitching,' coach Jamie LeVeque said.

The Lions are fortunate to return both of their starting pitchers in Aubrey Pesicka and Caroline MacAusland. LeVeque has the utmost confidence in both of them.

'When league starts I always like to use them both but it's hard to take one girl out when she's dominating. Neither one of them has ever gone out and just not been able to throw strikes,' LeVeque said.

Pesicka is more of a finesse pitcher while MacAusland is a power pitcher. Both have good movement on the ball and can give line-ups different looks.

West Linn has five seniors on this year's team, giving it much more experience than it had last year.

'That's a big asset for us. These girls have all been together for a long time and they play with a lot of confidence,' LeVeque said.

West Linn returns virtually its entire line-up from last season. Catching will be Kelsey Oleson while Kylie Crawford is back at first base.

Crawford will be one of the most dangerous hitters in the state this year and possesses a terrific batting eye and lots of power.

Summer Figone and Hannah Schmitz will fill in for the Lions at second base, Karly LeVeque will man shortstop and Mackenzie Domann will play at third base.

In the outfield, the speedy Brianna Barzola will helm centerfield and be flanked by Elaina Schrader and Nicole Goins. Lauren Pyrch will move into left field later in the year when she joins the team after recovering from an injury.

West Linn has a number of players who excel in more than one sport, giving the team plenty of athleticism.

'I always think it's great to have kids playing more than one sport,' LeVeque said.

While the Lions have a very balanced line-up from top to bottom, LeVeque knows the key will be setting the table for Crawford and his big bats.

Karly LeVeque and Barzola will hit first and second in the line-up. Both are very quick and left-handed as well.

'We did a nice job getting them on base last year and that's where our success will be again this season,' LeVeque said.

The Lions will then rely on Crawford, Domann, MacAusland and Figone to provide the clutch hits for the team.

West Linn figures to be one of the teams to beat in the league this year along with Oregon City. Lake Oswego should also be much improved and dangerous.

The Lions will play a very strong non-league schedule this year including a rematch with a loaded South Salem team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season.

West Linn already got off to a strong start this spring with a win over a good Aloha team on Monday.

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