Jessica Mondale, left, and Kinzie Towry are headed to the Western Nationals softball games as part of the Eugene Lightning team Tuesday in Lancaster, Calif. - Denise Baratta

On to nationals

The prep softball season ended nearly two months ago, but that just meant the beginning of another campaign for many area competitors.

Among those still in action are South Medford High players Jessica Mondale, Kinzie Towry and Samantha Matarese. North Medford High pitcher Taylor Schmidt also remains active with a Grants Pass ASA fastpitch girls team.

The trio of Panthers have spent their summer flourishing for the Eugene Lightning, an 18-under ASA team.

Behind the strong efforts of the three South players, the Lightning recently won the state tournament to qualify for this week's Under-18A Western Nationals tournament in Lancaster, Calif.

The national tournament features around 150 teams and begins Tuesday with pool play and concludes next Sunday.

"We've done pretty well this summer," says Mondale, Eugene's No. 1 pitcher. "Pretty much everybody has stepped up.

"We are very excited for nationals."

Mondale has played a key role for the Lightning this summer, including her pitching performance in a 2-0 win over Portland in the state title game.

Having her high school teammates on board has made the experience all the more enjoyable.

"It's nice being on a team where you're not alone," says Mondale, who, along with Matarese, will be a junior at South Medford. "Like when you go out of town, you don't have to be nervous about not knowing anyone."

Towry, who batted just under .500 in the state tournament, is the starting third baseman for Eugene.

The 16-year-old began the summer playing for a team out of Grants Pass but soon left for the Eugene squad.

"It wasn't working out," says Towry of her start with GP. "I talked to other teammates from South who were on the (Eugene) team and they picked me up. We went to a tournament in Denver and did pretty well, so I decided to stay."

Besides the three South Medford girls, the Eugene team is comprised of players from Sheldon High, Bend, Drain and Corvallis.

"I've actually met a lot of girls through this experience," says Towry, a senior-to-be with the Panthers. "It's really cool because I've met girls from a bunch of different areas that we normally wouldn't play during the school year."

Schmidt spent the majority of the summer playing for the Black Tornado 16U team.

With Schmidt, her North Medford High teammates and St. Mary's High pitcher Brianna Williams, the Black Tornado went 3-2 at the state tournament to qualify for regionals in Seattle.

But rain forced a premature ending to the team's regionals experience last weekend.

"We went 3-1," says Schmidt, "but it rained pretty much the whole time and they couldn't finish the tournament. That was pretty disappointing because we were doing pretty well."

Schmidt's season wasn't done, however, as a Grants Pass 18U team picked her up for this week's USA/ASA Girls' Class A 18-Under Fastpitch Tournament in College Station, Texas.

Schmidt, who played as a 12-year-old at the national tournament in Texas with Roseburg, will join a handful of Grants Pass, Sheldon and Roseburg players for the week-long experience.

"They qualified for nationals and asked me to go," says Schmidt, who will be the No. 2 pitcher behind GP's Chelsea Chamberlain. "I know a lot of the girls from the school season, so I'm pretty excited to go."

The tournament featuring about 130 teams begins Tuesday and concludes Sunday.

"I'm just going to do what I can to help (Grants Pass)," says Schmidt. "I've had a pretty good summer already. This will be a great experience."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail

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