The Lions return a strong core that hopes to contend in the balanced Three Rivers League

by: DAN BROOD - Sarah Von Ahn deals a pitch in West Linn's recent game against Tualatin. Von Ahn returns to the Lions after a strong freshman season.With a young team and a new head coach, the West Linn girls softball team is loaded with potential this season.

The Lions have taken on one of the most rigorous preseason schedules in the state so far this year, one that figures to leave the team battle-tested heading into a wide open Three Rivers League.

“I've said from Day 1 that we have the ability to compete for the league title,” coach Scott Smith said. Smith takes over as head coach after assisting with the team for the past six seasons.

West Linn graduated some top talent last season, including the TRL offensive player of the year but returns a strong core.

Sophomore pitcher Sarah Von Ahn is back after a strong freshman campaign and has been a consistent strike-thrower early in the year.

Catching will be Caroline Freiling, who doubles as the Lions' clean-up hitter and should be one of the top power hitters in the league.

“We're expecting a big season out of Caroline,” Smith said.

West Linn also returns senior shortstop Leah Beyer and sophomore second-baseman Hannah Siciliani, who started last year as a freshman.

Maddi Higgins has moved to centerfield as well and was voted to the second-team all-state last year.

“We're definitely very strong up the middle,” Smith said.

Higgins and right-fielder Carly Savoy will be the team's speedy slap-hitters at the top of the line-up.

At first base for West Linn is Danielle Del Bene, making the transition from catcher.

“We had to find a way to get her bat in the line-up,” Smith said.

At third base, West Linn recently lost senior Mackenzie Hartdegen to a broken thumb and freshman Devinne Amesquita will replace her.

Rounding out the outfield will be another freshman, Lisa Reavely in left.

West Linn figures to be a strong defensive team this season and, if its offense can find a rhythm, it should be very competitive in the league this year.

“Our hitting is coming around. We're gaining confidence and a point of emphasis has been learning how to compete,” Smith said.

The Lions have already faced some of the top pitchers and top overall teams in the state this season and hope that experience will help them in the competitive league.

West Linn takes on Oregon City Monday in its league opener.

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