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Softball club off to Michigan

Rogue River girls in Series

They've logged 5,800 miles in less than a month and yet the Rogue River Senior Girls Little League softball team has just begun.

The Rogue River squad is cooling its heels today after winning the West Regional title with a 3-1 triumph over Arcadia, Calif., Thursday in Boise.

Next up is a flight to Kalamazoo, Mich., Saturday and the start of the eight-team World Series Monday against the South's entry.

We were talking (Thursday) and three of our kids had never been out of the state before this, said Rogue River coach Dennis Artoff from Boise. I'm not sure how many have crossed the Continental Divide, but my guess is not that many. It's the first time I've gone that far away from home.

Rogue River began its odyssey in mundane fashion, winning the District 8 championship at the Medford National Little League Fields. The state tournament in Portland proved a breeze and then it was on to Anchorage, Alaska, for the Northwest tournament.

That stop, as much as any, was a psychological barrier for the 14-16-year-old team.

We went up to the regional in Washington in 1998, blind and intimidated, Artoff said. They were good teams with fancy uniforms. You could tell they were from a bigger area. We lost a one-run game and a two-run game.

This year, you can see the fire in our eyes. We're playing hard and haven't run out of gas. The kids keep me motivated.

Artoff's count the team is 22-2. Rogue River sailed through the winner's bracket before suffering its first setback, 6-5, to Washington. But the team snapped back with a 9-6 win and headed for Boise.

Although Little League paid for the round-trip flight between Portland and Alaska, there were other expenses.

That's when a couple of moms hit the street, raising funds.

There were two moms out on a street corner, banging buckets, Artoff says. They raised $1,900 in just one day and that paid for our flight from Portland to Boise. We didn't want to drive, because we were playing the next day.

Rogue River outscored Tucson, Ariz., and Sunnyvale, Calif., before dropping a 6-1 decision to Arcadia on Tuesday. Just to make things interesting, rain washed out Wednesday's rematch.

Given the chance to settle things, Rogue River struck quickly Thursday. Jamie Artoff scored in the first inning to make it 1-0 and then K.K. Smith and Katie Glasscock scored the decisive runs in the third inning.

Artoff pitched the first four innings, before giving way to Glasscock in the fifth.

Jamie was pitching junk and off-speed stuff, Artoff said. Then when they started hitting her, we went to Katie and she started throwing harder.

The nucleus of the group has been together for five years, venturing to three state tournaments.

Five of them were on varsity this year, because we didn't have a junior varsity, says Artoff, who is also the high school coach. Three of them would've been on varsity anyway.

School is still three weeks away, but the field trip of a lifetime continues.