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First teamers senior Emilee Ramirez-Bardell, junior Jaira Bunyard pave way for No. 15 Rangers

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA SOFTBALL - No. 15 Estacada softball is being led by a quartet of talented upperclassmen. Returning stars and hot bats have propelled Estacada softball into a great start to the 2022 season.

This a Rangers team looking to pick up wins, challenge for the Tri-Valley Conference title and make a hard push into playoffs.

"Hitting is always one of our strongest aspects as a program," said Coach Mike Clark. "(But this year) our well-rounded pitching staff combined with a returning defense is (another) strength we are excited about."

It's been a solid start for No. 15 Estacada (4-4), with a tough nonconference schedule that will test the team's mettle before heading into league next week. The biggest win was the home-opener, a 14-13 victory over No. 5 Astoria (6-2), who have otherwise been running teams off the diamond. The Rangers also tested perennial state contender No. 11 Banks (2-1) in a narrow 13-11 loss, a game in which Estacada notched 14 hits against the stout defense.

Coach Clark was quick to point to four of his talented upperclassmen who will lead this program to new heights.

Senior catcher Emilee Ramirez-Bardell enters on the heels of a first-team all-league season in which she hit .461. She is as close to a lock as possible for another first-team nod, and could challenge for a spot on the all-state team as well.

Junior Taira Bunyard also secured first-team honors last season while hitting .423. She is holding down second base this season.

Junior Natalie Simmons is a defensive menace at shortstop. She hit .431 last season and picked up second-team all-league honors.

And Junior Lexxus Kelley, who earned an honorable mention in 2021, is the star pitcher for the Rangers.

"This offseason Lexxus put in a ton of work and we expect her to be a force for our team this year," Clark said.

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