Glad hardballers back hungry as ever

Armstrong, Regier could lead the Gladiators to a repeat title

GLADSTONE - Some of the faces have changed. But the Gladstone Gladiators are among those expected to contend for the Capital Conference baseball title this spring.

'Molalla's got everyone back,' said Gladstone coach Casey Webster. 'North Marion, Cascade and La Salle will be competitive. But I'd like to believe we can contend for the title. We've got a pretty good group….

'I think that this group, offensively, is better one through nine. Defensively, I think we're a little better. Pitching is the questionmark. We've got our top pitcher back, but after that we're not proven at this level.'

The Gladiators return hungry, after winning the conference and going 17-1 in league a year ago, and then bowing out of the state playoffs with a loss in their first game.

Led by seniors Bubba Armstrong and Brady Regier, the Gladiators return eight players who started at one time or another in 2007.

A first-team all-conference selection, Armstrong was the Gladiators' ace on the hill last season.

He proved he still has his stuff last Friday, when he fanned 10, walked two and scattered four hits in a 1-0 win at Stayton.

Regier returns to centerfield, where he earned conference 'player of the year' honors as a junior.

Junior Taylor Taft is another top returnee. He earned first-team all-conference honors as a designated hitter a year ago. This year he's earned the starting nod at shortstop.

Drew McNall, who gained honorable mention last season as a utility player, is starting at third base.

Other players returning with starting experience include: seniors Casey Young (second base), Brett Holte (outfield), Thane Rice (catcher) and Trey Durkee (outfield).

Others likely to see starting action for the Gladiators on the hill include: seniors McNall and Kevin Peterson, and juniors Austen Cote and Mason Larkins.

Larkins, a right-hander up from the jayvee, threw a five-inning no-hitter in a 20-0 route of Estacada last week, striking out three and walking two.

The Gladiators fired up their bats for 20 hits in the runaway, with Young (3-for-5, double, 4 RBI), Armstrong (3-for-4, double), Larkins (3-for-4) and Cote (2-for-3, 3-run double) leading the charge.

Larkins also scored the game's only run in the 1-0 win at Stayton. The up-and-coming junior ripped a fourth-inning double, advanced on a passed ball, and scored on a fielder's choice by Cote.

The Gladiators left nine runners on base in the narrow victory.

'We were missing three key guys who were on the school trip back East, but we had some guys step up and do a pretty good job of filling in,' said Webster.

The Gladiator diamond boss singled out junior Tyler Smith for his efforts in filling in for Regier in centerfield, and junior Stephen Peterson for his play filling in for Durkee in left.

The Gladiators (3-1, 2-0) return to conference play next week, entertaining La Salle (1-2, 0-1) on Wednesday and hosting Cascade (4-4, 1-1) on Friday.