The Cascade High School (CHS) softball team had one of their best seasons ever, thanks to the collective synergy of the team. The team was League Champion, with a record of 11 wins to 1 loss. Additionally, the team tied two all-time CHS softball records, 24 team home runs, tied with 2012, and 134 team stolen bases, tied with 2013.
“This year’s softball team was strong all the way around,” said head coach Todd Fraker. “We had very solid pitching with Renee Lambert in the circle and Hanalei Alejo did a fantastic job behind the plate as the catcher. The infield did a great job backing up Renee, with Coco Zehm playing 1st base, Emma Sunitsch anchoring 2nd base and then Vanessa West settling in at 3rd base and Giselle Navarro rounding out the infield at shortstop.
“Our outfield showed great improvement throughout the season; Autumn West played center field and was flanked by Emma Warman, who was very solid, in right field and Talia Stein-Trujillo who became a strong fielder by the end of the season.”
Senior Renee Lambert, who has been playing softball for eleven years, agreed that the team thrived on how well they worked together. “One thing that is very special about our CHS team is the bond we all share with one another and the coaches,” she said.
“Last year we had the exact same team minus a few of the younger girls that joined this year. We are very close-knit. Coach Fraker has coached most of us since 7th grade, which makes us close with him as well. One important aspect to having a successful team is being able to trust and rely on each other and your coaches, which is exactly what this team had, and I will be forever be thankful for them.”
Fraker credits Lambert and senior Autumn West for their leadership of the team. “Autumn West is the vocal leader that gets everyone fired up to play while Renee Lambert is that ‘leader by example’ and just motivates others to play well to match her level of play.”
Lambert, setting nine season and career records, and West, setting one season record, were huge contributors to the team’s success. “I’m incredibly proud of the records set by Autumn and Renee as they are tied to those girls’ drive and goal-setting,” said Fraker.
“To steal 50 bases [prior record 31], Autumn had to work at getting on base more, which she did by becoming a better hitter and working pitch counts to her favor.
“For Renee’s hitting records, she really focused on ‘pitch selection’ and hitting the pitch she wanted the pitcher to throw. Her single season homerun record [20, with a previous record of 9] is epic; she hit a homerun every 3.75 at bats, which is unheard-of.
“The records that are really impressive are the cumulative records over a career because most of the previous record holders played between 88 and 92 games (other than Truh Merriman who did not get to play her senior year) whereas Autumn and Renee only played 57 games due to Covid-19, missing their entire sophomore season and only playing 13 games as juniors.”
Lambert, who also plays for a travel team, said, “It was very exciting to set some new school records. I had no idea that I even had a chance to touch any records, so it wasn’t anything I was focused on going into the season; it just kinda happened.
“I could not have done it without my coaches and teammates. In order to make the rbi (runs batted in) record [59 for the season, beating the prior record of 43; 115 for career, beating the prior record of 112], I needed teammates on base to hit in, and in order to break the home run record, my coach taught me a new hitting mentality which was finding my pitch to hit and not swinging at the first strike I see.”
Lambert’s amazing skill is matched by her humility and generosity. When asked about a favorite moment, she turned her attention to her teammates, saying, “My favorite moment of the season was when my teammates Perla, Talia and Emma all hit their first home runs.”
“The records were secondary for both Renee and Autumn, the success of the team was primary, and it happened that their individual records directly made the team better, which is worth celebrating,” said Fraker. “Renee Lambert had one of the finest seasons in Cascade Softball history. Between her batting average, her power and her production, she may be the best hitter to ever play at Cascade.”
In the fall, Lambert will be attending Washington State University, which doesn’t have a collegiate softball program, but she hopes to try out WSU’s rec league.
Enjoying the moment and looking forward, Fraker said, “This was a special team that had a special season, and next year’s seniors are a great group of girls.”
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