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Navarrete moves on: Ontario’s longtime ace prepares for the next level, while promising the Tigers will remain in good hands

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ONTARIO — After four years as the Ontario softball team’s ace, Lexi Navarrete is saying goodbye to the Tigers.

But Lexi’s time playing softball is far from over. In early February, Lexi signed her letter of intent to join the softball team at College of Idaho. She will be the fourth generation to join the ‘Yotes and staying close to her family was a major part of that decision, she said.

After the 2019 season was over, Lexi was sent off from the Greater Oregon League with her fourth all-league first team honor. This season, the first team pitching honors went to La Grande’s Ally Brock and McLoughlin’s Sydney Earls. In order for Lexi to go home with her fourth first team award, the coaches of the GOL agreed to vote for her as a utility player. When she’s not pitching, Lexi plays shortstop.

The coaches did the same for Lexi in the all-state voting, as she was named to the Oregon 4A all-state first team as a utility player. Lexi was the first first team all-state selection for the Tigers in Jeff Young’s tenure at Ontario.

The next generation

While it’s always tough to see a veteran leave, the Navarrete family is just getting started with the Ontario softball team.

Annabelle Navarrete will be a freshman at Ontario High School next spring and while it’s too early to see exactly what the Tigers will be like in a year, it looks like she’ll be fighting for heavy playing time in the Ontario rotation.

Being thrown right into the mix is a challenge for most freshmen, let alone a pitcher. Luckily for Belle, her older sister was in the exact same position four years ago.

In spring 2016, Lexi was a freshman and starting in the circle for an Ontario softball team that was loaded with veteran talent.

In preparation for her sister’s freshman season, Lexi said her advice to Belle was to prepare for the mental aspect of the game.

“I told her, just don’t go out there and be worried how you are physically. It’s all about being mentally ready. High school ball is all about the mental challenge. There’s going to be girls that are bigger than you, but you have to be mentally ready. That’s what challenged me the most.”

But Lexi said she’s confident Belle will have no trouble adjusting to varsity softball.

“She’s been getting a little too relaxed with her club team,” Lexi said, laughing. “She needs a new challenge.”

Belle will also be joining a Tiger squad full of young players. Of Ontario’s 13 players listed on the roster, six of them were freshmen this spring.

An emotional tournament

After playing for Idaho Crossfire for years, Lexi was sent off from the club team with a memorable tournament as Belle (who normally plays for the Idaho Crossfire’s 14U team) was promoted to the 18U team for the College Showcase Invitational tournament in Mesquite, Nevada in late June.

According to Lexi, Belle got promoted to the 18U team because there was a team opening, and Belle stepped up to the challenge.

“My coach, honestly, he really likes Belle,” Lexi said. “I was going and she didn’t have a tournament that weekend so they brought her up. She got to hit and she got to pitch. She did really well.”

With college just around the corner for Lexi, and her no longer able to play on the 18U team after this year, this summer was likely the last time she would ever be able to play on the same team with her sister in a formal capacity.

And it’s been a long time since the Navarrete sisters have been on the same team.

“The two of us, we haven’t played since we played tee-ball with the rec department when we were kids,” Lexi said. “It actually brought back a lot of old memories for me and I got a little emotional since I’m going away and it’s probably our last chance to play together.”

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Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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