Panthers on the prowl, headed to nationals

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The 12A Oregon Panthers are headed to Indiana and the Junior Olympic ASA National Softball Tournament. The team features four players from Keizer. (Submitted photo)

The 12A Oregon Panthers qualified last month in Kent, Wash. to play in the Junior Olympic ASA National Tournament set for Bloomington, Ind. beginning Aug. 1.

The team qualified for the national tournament by finishing in the top three at the qualifying tournament held Saturday-Sunday, June 26-27, in Kent.

The team competed amongst a field of 12 from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

The Oregon Panthers roster includes four girls from Keizer, three from Salem, two from Cascade, and one each from McMinnville and Newberg.

Girls from Keizer are Alyx Crager, Kinsey McNaught, Kimi Ito and Kiana Villarreal.

The other seven team members are Krysta Slate, Tabby Humphreys, Madi Hopper, Lauren Radley, Kennan Feiring, Sam Hensley, and Paityn Willoughby.

Since last September, when the team first started competing, they have an overall record of 65-12.

The Panthers have finished top three in 12 out of 13 complete tournaments in which they have participated, including six first-place finishes.

Additionally, the Panthers finished top three in national qualifiers held in Kent, and Redding, Calif.

Six out of the 11 players on the team, including the four Keizer players, qualified for the national tournament last year as first year 12U players.  They made it a season goal to return and try to improve on its 48th out of 88 teams finish a year ago.

“These girls have worked so hard this year.” said Rick Crager, assistant coach and Keizer resident. “They have competed and beat some of the best 12- and 14-year-old teams from Oregon, California, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia.”

Crager has coached the four Keizer kids, along with former player Megan Ulrey, the past five years

“I’m proud of the entire team and their performance over the last nine months. It has been especially gratifying to have been a part in the development of the five Keizer kids. All five of them have been a big part of my life the last five years,” said Costa.

The girls are working hard to raise the nearly $1,100 per player that will be necessary to pay for their airfare, transportation, and lodging.

“Any funds that can be donated by businesses or individuals would be great in helping these girls get the chance of a lifetime,”  said Crager.

The Oregon Panthers is a 501(c)3 non-profit and contributions may be tax deductible.

Checks can be mailed to Oregon Panthers, 7437 Everwood St. NE,  Keizer, OR  97303.

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