BASEBALL PREVIEW - Pioneers look for success on the 5A stage

Coming off of an extremely successful 23-6 season, which saw a 6A state playoff win, the Sandy baseball team finds itself in a bit of a rebuilding year.

The Pioneers will make the move to the 5A level this season, but return just one starter, and while head coach Garet Luebbert insists the team will remain talented, his biggest concern is inconsistency.

'If we can find ways to challenge our new players in competitive ways early, our players will gain the necessary confidence to perform more consistently, and we should be in a good position to finish in the top 4 of our conference this year,' Luebbert said.

One of those younger players is junior Justin Adams, an athlete the Pioneers have relied upon on both their basketball and football teams this season.

'He is a confident young man who is very athletic and intelligent, and will be a strong hitter,' Leubbert said.

Alongside Adams, the Pioneers will turn toward Trent Rutledge to take on a leadership role this season. Rutledge was an all-league player in 2010, going 7-0 on the mound with a 2.01 ERA while hitting for a .301 batting average.

Senior Kyle Rohweder and junior Rosalio Menchaca will make up the back end of the pitching rotation, while Aaron Paul and Erik Churchill should be among the team's top hitters.

While many coaches may see this youth and inexperience as a roadblock, the Pioneers plan on overcoming it by making sure that they are exerting the maximum effort every time they hit the field.

'We have been, and will always be a program that likes to play an aggressive style of offense, looking to take extra bases and out work opponents. We can promise you, we will be the hardest working team on the field,' Luebbert said.

Among the players who graduated last season, five have moved on to the college ranks this spring in Tom D'Aboy (Gonzaga), Connor Harris (George Fox), Dusty Turin (George Fox), Ethan Teel (Clark Community College) and Marcus Blackmon (Clark Community College).

Sherwood appears to be the class of the Northwest Oregon Conference, winning two of the last three titles, finishing with a 19-8 record last year.

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