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Rangers down Mazama 6-1 on back of Isabella Us-Zapata's pitching, smothering outfield

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Estacada senior pitcher Isabella Us-Zapata wowed in the circle while her defense smothered Mazama 6-1 in the first round of state. With a historic victory nearly in their grasp, a pair of Rangers senior stars came together in the circle to talk it over.

Pitcher Isabella Us-Zapata and catcher Emilee Ramirez-Bardell took a pause to tell a joke.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Estacada seniors Isabella Us-Zapata and Emilee Ramirez-Bardell took a moment in the circle before closing out the programs first-ever state victory.  "I just try to make her laugh, give her a chance to take a breath," Ramirez-Bardell said.

At one point Us-Zapata looked at her hand incredulously — she had just thrown her second ball at the start of the close-out seventh inning — and wiped it on Ramirez-Bardell's pads with a smile. Then both locked back in to secure the win.

The Rangers defense only gave up a single run — a deep-shot triple from Vikings freshman Margaret Pizano that batted home fellow freshman Caelyn Davis — in that final inning. For the game, Us-Zapata had three strikes, the Rangers gave up just four hits, and sent the Vikings packing three-up, three-down in five innings. His pitcher performed so well that Coach Mike Clark had to eschew his normal strategy of rotating in a fresh arm.

"I just couldn't take her out," he said with a chuckle. "Isabella threw an incredible game."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Rangers were all smiles after a historic win.  In the end that smothering defense led No. 7 Estacada past No. 10 Mazama 6-1 Wednesday, May 25, in the opening round of the OSAA 4A Softball State Championships. That victory proved that the fifth time's the charm for Estacada, as they celebrated the program's first-ever playoff win.

"This feels awesome, I am so happy for this group of girls," Clark said. "We are doing things that have never been done before."

"I've been working to build this program for 10 years — I have been waiting for this," he added.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Rangers junior Natalie Simmons gets a base hit in a game against Mazama Wednesday afternoon, May 25.  Against the Vikings, a plethora of Rangers made their mark.

Senior Katey Carpentier went 1-2 with a double and three RBIs; Ramirez-Bardell hit 3-4 with an RBI; junior Natalie Simmons hit 2-3 and scored a run; sophomore Emree Hunter and junior Lexxus Kelley both added a run and steal; and sophomore Kassidy Elkins added a pair of scores as a courtesy runner.

The depth also helped defensively, as Clark is able to get creative with lineups.

"I can look down the bench and know each will perform well," he said.

In the opening round, because the Vikings hit a lot of fly balls, Clark packed the outfield with talent to snag the few that got away from his pitcher and secure the outs.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Sophomore Emerson Bailey snags a catch in the outfield.  Right now the historic accolade hasn't really sunken in yet for anyone. Clark could only shake his head in awe, pointing all the kudos back to his players — a group that also claimed its first-ever Tri-Valley Conference title this season.

"We are just taking it one game at a time," he said.

That was a sentiment echoed by Ramirez-Bardell, who has been a vocal leader for this team that is heading into uncharted waters.

"I'm just treating this win like any other game," she said. "It is great to do this alongside my teammates."

Next for Estacada is a road trip to take on No. 2 Cascade Friday, May 27. The two played in the second week of the season, a bout Cascade won 10-3.

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