by: VERN UYETAKE Maddy Dunn, above, and Courtney Huston both return to helm a strong pitching staff for the Lake Oswego softball team this year.

The Lake Oswego softball team can't wait to get on the field this year. With a strong group of returning players, the Lakers looks to build off the momentum they garnered last season when they finished the spring as one of the hottest teams in the league.

"We hope we can pick up right where we left off," coach Tina Cooke said.

The Lakers return both of their top pitchers in junior Maddy Dunn and sophomore Courtney Huston giving them both talent and depth on the mound.

"Our pitching is going to keep us in a lot of games," Cooke said.

Both Dunn and Huston will be major contributors this year. Cooke will give the ball to whomever has the hot hand but both players are terrific hitters as well.

The Lakers' line-up should be well-balanced with a solid mix of both speed and power.

At catcher will be sophomore Mackenzie Farnham who has a tremendous arm.

Verita Richardson is one of four senior leaders and is the team's first baseman while possessing a very powerful bat.

"Having four seniors this year is really refreshing," Cooke said.

At second base, Yurika Asai and Paige Quesenberry will both see time.

Shortstop will be manned by senior veteran Molly Pyle who Cooke believes will be one of the top players in the league at her position again this season.

Third base will be either Dunn or Huston, depending on which one of them is on the mound.

Dunn is also the team's lead-off hitter and very quick on the bases while Huston will hit toward the middle of the order. Anchoring the outfield defensively will be centerfielder Emily Wong who is among the quickest players in the league.

At right field will be senior Sammy Saldivar, moving back into the outfield after playing catcher last season.

And in left field a handful of players will probably see some time, led by senior Erin Haagenson.

Lake Oswego possesses an interesting line-up this season in that a large percentage of its players bat left-handed.

That will allow the Lakers to give opponents a different look and will give its faster players an advantage.

Lake Oswego came on strong at the end of last year and hopes to hit the ground running this year.

The league should be very competitive this year with Oregon City and West Linn both fielding very strong teams and with no real weak link to be seen.

The Lakers hope to finish in the top half of the standings to earn an automatic berth in the playoffs.

"We'd love to earn a legitimate playoff berth and I think we can do it. There's no team that should blow us out this year. It's going to be about who can come through under pressure," Cooke said.

The Lakers will work through their preseason schedule after Spring Break and start league play in mid April.

"I'm just really excited and the girls can't wait to get out and play," Cooke said.

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