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Lakers claim league baseball title

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego's Moto Asai, right, avoids a sliding baserunner to make a double-play throw to first during Monday's league championship game against Canby.  Asai went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as Lake Oswego won the game 9-1.  The Lakers will now be one of the top seeds in the upcoming metro area playoffs, which get underway on Saturday.

It was one and done for the Lake Oswego American Legion baseball team at this week's league tournament.

A 'one and done' claim usually has a negative connotation, but this time it was a good thing as NW Realty Group (the team's summer sponsor) got to take most of the week off after winning the league championship with a 9-1 victory over Canby on Monday.

Lake Oswego and Canby had the top seeds in their respective divisions after playing a 14-game league schedule this summer. That meant that each team got to bypass the preliminary rounds at this week's league tournament in Canby and move directly to the championship game.

With Monday's victory, Lake Oswego will now have one of the top seeds heading into metro-area playoffs, which get underway on Saturday. The Lakers will have the time in between to rest up its pitching staff for a possible run to the state tournament.

Monday's game represented the second time in three days that Lake Oswego and Canby met each other. The two teams also played last Saturday in the regular-season finale, and Canby won that contest 8-6. That victory probably gave the Cougars a considerable amount of comfort heading into the league championship game. But they probably weren't counting on the Lakers stepping their game up to another level, which good teams often do in the post-season.

'I think what you saw tonight is we wanted to be the No. 1 seed,' Lake Oswego coach Jake Anders said. 'These kids rise to the occasion when they're called on.'

When called on, virtually everyone on Lake Oswego's roster delivered in Monday's game.

First and foremost was the effort turned in by pitcher Bennett Frasier, who went 6 1/3 innings while giving up just four hits. Three of those hits, all singles, came in the fourth inning when Frasier encountered his only trouble of the evening. After seeing the lead-off hitter in that inning bunt his way on, Frasier balked the runner to second and then to third, and then watched him score on an infield single. Other than that brief hiccup, Frasier sailed through the game.

'He understands he's a go-to guy,' Anders said of Frasier. 'And he understands how to get himself prepared.'

Anders liked the fact that Frasier stayed in shape while he was away from the team on a family vacation. According to the coach, Frasier lost seven pounds by working out during that vacation.

Frasier also helped out at the plate, but he did it in a somewhat unusual way by drawing no hits, three walks and one hit by pitch and he scored one run in the process.

The free passes seemed to be part of a larger theme for the night as four Canby pitchers issued nine walks. With all of that charity, the Cougars' pitching staff almost needed to throw a no-hitter to have any chance to win the game. As it turned out, the Lakers banged out 10 hits, including a double each by Cooper Mandelblatt and Moto Asai.

It was Mandelblatt's double that helped get things started in the top of the first inning. After a lead-off single by Matt Stutes, Mandelblatt got a one-out double and Frasier followed with a walk to load the bases. Two batters later, the Lakers had the game's first run on an infield single by Duncan White. Moments later, Mike Wesner reached on an error by the pitcher, which scored Mandelblatt and gave Lake Oswego a 2-0 lead.

The Lakers tacked on two more runs in the second to make it 4-0. That frame started with a double by Asai down the third base line. After a walk by Stutes and a sacrifice bunt by Alex Freeman, Asai was able to score on a throwing error by the pitcher. A short time later, Stutes scored on a sacrifice fly by Steve Smith.

Smith also figured prominently in Lake Oswego's next run when he singled home Stutes to make it 5-0 in the fourth. After giving that run back in the bottom of the fourth, the Lakers then blew the game wide open in the sixth.

The Lakers scored four times in the inning. The first runs were forced in by walks, first to Wesner and then to Jared Van Hoon. Asai followed with a two-run, scoring Smith and Wesner ahead of him, to make it 9-1.

After all of those fireworks, it would have been hard to pick out an offensive star for the night. Stutes would certainly deserve consideration after going 2-for-2 with three walks and two runs scored. Then there was Mandelblatt, who went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, and Asai, who went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored.

In addition, Smith had a hit, a walk and two RBIs.

'Just as it should in a playoff-type situation, it came down to execution, and offensively, our guys did an outstanding job,' Anders said.

The Lakers will now embark on a playoff marathon that will take up the remainder of the month, and possibly more, if the Lakers continue to win. In order to make it to the state legion tournament, a feat Lake Oswego last achieved in 2003, the Lakers will have to win two best-of-three series and then win a single game against one of the remaining teams.

'We feel good about our chances. But it's going to take an important week of preparation,' Anders said.