File, The Gazette

Lewis-Palmer wanted to give its seniors proper recognition. 

The Rangers hung streamers and posters, handed out gifts and laid chalk on the field to commemorate the fourth-year class. They also sent the seniors away with an 11-1 win over visiting Rampart.

Every senior was in the lineup, with sophomore Grace Lendt in the circle. They earned it, and the second-year starter wanted to make sure it was a memorable final chapter. 

So, only two pitches into the Rangers' half of the first, they were on top. Lendt did her part with a run-scoring single, and seven consecutive strikes to set the Rams down in order just minutes before. 

What better way to get rid of final-game nerves. 

"I played for the seniors," Lendt said. "I was going to leave it all out there for the seniors because I love them so much. I wanted them to have the best last game." 

Through two innings, the Rangers had already put up nine runs and held a lead just as big thanks to a shutout from Lendt. 

The win, in part, can be traced back to the off-season. 

Coach Lisa Olsson had a sense of the program she'd be taking over. She was an assistant for last year's varsity club, so assuming control of the program wasn't as difficult.

Still, she brought the seniors together over the summer and began to lay the groundwork. Her first step was growing the team's unity. They were a distanced group at times last year, so she wanted to build a family — even before a good softball team. 

The results were hugs and tears all around as the seniors stepped outside the lines for the final time. Mission accomplished. 

"Every team can have their ups and downs amongst high school girls, but our group really came together," Olsson said. "My main focus was to make sure we played together and played for one another. It helped them grow as people, too." 

Not every game saw all seven seniors touch the field. Olsson wants to build a winning program, too. She had to make tough decisions along the way, putting the best possible nine on the field. 

But, the seniors who didn't start also didn't sulk. They worked hard and showed up every day. The final game wasn't a chance for charitable starts, but rather, an opportunity to build a culture of hard work — and in turn, the rewards of that effort. 

"Not every one is going to get all the playing time," Olsson said. "I told them that if they earned it, they'd get the playing time. They worked their tails off at practice and earned the right to be able to play. We stepped it up for our seniors." 

The games are over, but not the relationships. And that's exactly how Olsson wanted it. 

"It's a dream to win your senior game," senior Jaiden Dahl said. "I want the girls to know that it's okay to not win. As long as you come back and never give up, it's worth it." 

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