Three years after cracking the varsity lineup as a freshman, Ashland High first baseman April Jorgensen has been forced to make two major adjustments as a senior: First, she's taking on a leadership role.

And second, she's winning.

Not surprisingly, the Grizzlies' bright-eyed, golden-haired slugger is sliding safely into both.

"Everyone's definitely looking at me at all times," says Jorgensen, the lone senior and one of just three upperclassmen on Ashland's 12-player roster. "I never have a second to let my hair down. It's always, 'What's April doing.' I have a lot of pressure from the girls and the coaches. They're not saying it, but I know it. It's there."

Jorgensen has handled it well. She's a key contributor on both offense and defense, batting fifth in the lineup and keeping Ashland's youthful 'D' on task when the team takes the field.

Her decision to stick with the program through hard times has paid off, too, because after three straight years of learning to deal with disappointing outcomes Jorgensen is finally getting a taste of success. The Grizzlies are 11-12 overall and 4-6 in the Southern Sky Conference, and next Friday Jorgensen will take part in her first state playoff game.

"It is so cool," said Jorgensen, the only softballer still playing out of a class of 10 that were freshmen in 2004. "It's always been a dream of mine to make it to the playoffs."

And getting there wasn't a given. Despite a reclassification that significantly decreased the level of competition on Ashland's conference schedule, the Grizzlies started the season as underdogs. Again. Already, they've beaten the odds.

Ashland was rated dead last in the SSC's preseason coaches poll. Of course, that was before the Grizzlies shocked perennial powerhouse Crater, took one from Eagle Point and swept another team picked ahead of them, Mazama.

All of the above has been a dream come true for Jorgensen.

"This was something she was looking forward to," said AHS second-year head coach Misty Potochnik. "She's been part of the building process and is experiencing things this year that she's never experienced before &

beating Crater, and just winning, period."

Jorgensen and company wrap up their regular season schedule Saturday at Mazama. Regardless of the outcome, Ashland will enter the state tournament as the SSC's No. — seed. That guarantees the Grizzlies a first-round home playoff game against the No. 4 team from the Mid-Willamette Conference.

Are the Grizzlies equipped for a long playoff run? Jorgensen thinks it's possible, but admits that she has no idea what to expect. That doesn't change her excitement level.

"We have so much to look forward to," she said.

Potochnik also can't wait.

"It just depends on if everything clicks," she said. "When you're very young, it's hard mentally to play through things, but when everybody does their job and things fall in line we're a very tough and hard team to compete with."

Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.