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Hawks want a bigger taste of the playoffs

Baseball: Horizon Christian, loaded with talented players, eyes big things in 2011

TUALATIN - Last year, the Horizon Christian High School baseball team got a taste of what the state playoffs are all about.

This year, with a strong group of returning players and some talented newcomers, the Hawks are looking for a bigger and better helping of postseason action.

'Our expectations are as high as they have ever been, given we got a taste of the baseball state playoffs last year for the first time,' fourth-year Horizon Christian coach Alex Esquerra said. 'Our 'baseball specific' talent pool has steadily been growing over the years, so this year our depth gives us options we haven't had in the past.'

Among the top returnees from last year's Horizon Christian team, which went 14-14 on the season and fell 7-3 to Warrenton in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, is senior shortstop/pitcher Shane Monahan, who will bat leadoff and serve as team captain.

Last year, when he led the Hawks in most offensive categories, Monahan earned first-team All-West Valley League honors and third-team Class 3A All-state honors.

Junior Jordan Pearson, a three-year starter, returns at catcher. He was a second-team all-league pick last year.

'He's bigger, stronger and his arm has vastly improved this year,' Esquerra said. 'He has also put in some off-season work both offensively and defensively that I'm sure will reap him and the team dividends. Look for him to have his strongest season ever.'

Horizon Christian has another returning all-league player in sophomore Willie Brucker, who earned second-team all-league last year as an outfielder. The left-hander will also see action on the mound and at first base.

Senior Ryan Guay returns at second base, where he was a second-team all-league pick last year. Guay, a 4.0 student, also had the most innings pitched for the Hawks last year.

Senior outfielder/pitcher Trevor Guay, Ryan's twin, also returns. Trevor Guay led the squad in RBIs last year.

'Trevor is perhaps the most underrated outfielder in the league,' Esquerra said of the center fielder. 'Expect a big year from Trevor this year.'

Senior outfielder Kyle Stark also returns for the Hawks.

'Kyle was the most improved single player on the team over the last two years,' Esquerra said.

Junior returnee Josh Holmes, in his third year on the varsity team, should provide power to the Horizon Christian offense.

'He's just plain brutally strong,' Esquerra said. 'He's big, he's strong and he's plain intimidating as a hitter. He is vastly improved as a pitcher, first baseman and team leader.'

Among the newcomers to the team is speedy senior outfielder/infielder/pitcher/catcher Spencer Vroman, who is a transfer from West Linn.

'He's expected to hit for a high average and drive in runs from the No. 3 spot in the line-up,' Esquerra said. 'He has a great grasp for the game and it will be exciting to see what he will contribute this year. No doubt he will be among the best in the West Valley League.'

Another transfer from West Linn, 6-foot-3 right-handed sophomore Zach Selen, could be one of the team's pitchers. He could also start at third base, first base or in the outfield.

Junior T.J. Hilton, another transfer from West Linn, brings even more speed to the Horizon Christian outfield.

Senior Andrew Peterson, a transfer from Century, adds depth to the line-up as a left-handed batter and another left-handed option coming out of the bullpen. Peterson may also see time at third base.

'He has an unmatched work ethic for the game and is a very coachable student of the game as well,' Esquerra said.

Freshman Kyle Esquerra could see action in the middle infield or on the mound. Other players on the Horizon Christian squad include sophomore outfielder David Lindsay, freshman outfielder Samson Sweiger, sophomore catcher Ethan Shierman and sophomore manager Matt Pruett.

'Pitching and bullpen depth is key for us,' Alex Esquerra said. 'We have any of seven guys that can emerge as the top pitcher for us. By virtue of many of our players putting in extra time over a full summer schedule campaign, and being experienced, we will be stronger offensively and defensively. Combine that with a catcher that can throw, outfielders who can run a ball down and some seasoned veterans in the infield, we're expecting great things this year.'

With that, the Hawks are taking aim at the top of the West Valley League this year.

'We set as a goal the top spot always,' Esquerra said. 'People are going to know we've come prepared to compete. Merely making it to state won't be good enough this year, but getting the job done in one of the historically strong 3A leagues in the state won't be a cake walk, that's for sure.'

Horizon Christian opened its season last week with a 15-5 win over Clatskanie. Ryan Guay, Vroman and Peterson all pitched and Holmes hit the first grand slam in school history.