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Star-studded teams trip up LO at state

The Lake Oswego American Legion baseball team will have to take solace in the fact that it was one of the top two squads in the Portland area this summer.

That distinction, which included a 6-0 run through the metro-area playoffs, qualified the Lakers for a trip to last week's state tournament in Eugene. On the surface, it looked like a good opportunity to make a run at a state title. In reality, the Lakers had their hands full competing against the non-Portland teams, which were a collection of all-star and combination squads

The Lakers (who are sponsored by NW Realty Group) lost their first game 7-0 to the Medford Mustangs, who drew from the entire town of Medford to fill their squad. The Lakers, whose team was made up solely from players within the program, had no answer for left-handed pitcher Josh Suarez, who pitched this year for Mt. Hood Community College.

'His ball moved like crazy,' Lake Oswego assistant coach Brian Keswick said of Suarez.

The Lakers, who finished the season 25-13, had Suarez on the ropes a few times but they never turned any of those threats into runs. Twice during the nine-inning game, the Lakers had left bases loaded. On another occasion, senior catcher Steve Smith wound up being stranded at third after hitting a lead-off triple. In another inning, Cooper Mandelblatt had a lead-off double but couldn't make it home.

'Medford was nervous at times,' Keswick said.

One of those threats came in the fifth when Suarez hit a batter and walked two others, but the former North Medford standout got out of trouble with a inning-ending pop-up.

In the sixth, Lake Oswego loaded the bases again with a walk, an infield single and an error. But Suarez closed the door again with a strikeout and a groundout.

For the game, the Lakers had five hits, three against Suarez and two against closer Tommy George, who pitched the last three innings for the save.

That loss knocked Lake Oswego into a second-round consolation game against the Columbia Gorge Hustlers, a team that is made up mainly of players from The Dalles area. The Lakers lost that game 16-9 after falling behind 8-0 in the first inning.

After surviving that early onslaught, Lake Oswego put up three runs in both the second and fourth innings to make the score 9-6. But the Hustlers answered with a run in the fifth and two more in the seventh to make it 12-6.

Smith, Alex Freeman and Mandelblatt each had two hits in that game. Mandelblatt wound up with five hits in the Lakers' two games.

With only Smith graduating from this year's Lake Oswego team, the future seemingly looks bright for the Lakers.

'The one thing about going down there (to Eugene) is it helped us for next year,' Keswick said.

Then there was Salem Post, which fielded nine college players on its roster and eventually ended up winning the tournament.