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Timberwolves ready to roll again

Baseball: Tualatin is looking forward to another successful season
by: DAN BROOD, LETHAL LEFTY — Senior Mitchell Lambson is back to lead the Tualatin pitching staff.

TUALATIN - The Tualatin High School baseball team is filled with optimism.

And with excitement. And with high hopes. And with enthusiasm. And, with - well, you get it.

The Timberwolves' eager anticipation for the 2008 season sure seems to be easy to understand. After all, Tualatin has a strong group of returning players back from last year's squad that battled its way to the semifinals of the Class 6A state playoffs.

Now, a year older, a year stronger and with a year more of experience, the Wolves are hoping for big things again this year.

'The kids are pretty excited,' Tualatin coach Matt Unis said. 'They're working hard. They all get along well and they all love baseball.'

Tualatin has a strong group of returning players from last year's team that placed second in the final Pacific Conference standings at 11-4 while also putting together an overall record of 20-9, which included three state playoff victories.

'We've got a lot of returnees from last year, but we're still young,' Unis said.

The Wolves definitely look to be young as they have only two seniors on the varsity roster (a third senior, outfielder Danny Johnson, will miss the season due to a shoulder injury). But Tualatin, despite its youth, has proven talent all over the field.

That especially looks to be the case for the Timberwolf pitching staff, which is led by senior Mitchell Lambson.

Last year, Lambson, a left-hander who has already signed a letter of intent to play college baseball at Arizona State University, was named the Pacific Conference Pitcher of the Year while also earning second-team Class 6A All-State honors.

'Mitchell is a leader by his work ethic and example,' Unis said. 'He throws all of his pitches for strikes and he throws with good tempo.'

Sophomore Mark Lambson, a right-hander, will be Tualatin's No. 2 pitcher. He was an honorable mention all-league pick last year as a freshman.

'He's Mr. Steady,' Unis said of the younger Lambson. 'He's very calm and throws strikes.'

Sophomore right-hander Conner George and sophomore left-hander Brandon Snyder will also see time on the mound.

At catcher, Tualatin has another standout returnee in junior John Grill, who was a first-team all-league pick and a third-team all-state selection last year.

'He's like a rock,' Unis said. 'He's a leader. He's a fiery, solid kid and a hard worker.'

In the infield, Tualatin looks steady up the middle as juniors Cody Gibson, at shortstop, and Zach McPherson, at second base, both return.

Gibson, who will bat leadoff, was a first-team all-league selection last year as well as an honorable mention all-state pick.

'He's our spark plug,' Unis said.

McPherson earned second-team all-league honors last year.

'Zach is a big bat for us,' Unis said. 'He likes to be up there in clutch situations.'

George will likely be at third base with one of the Lambson brothers over at first.

Dan Pas, the other senior on the roster, will be in left field. Snyder will play in center field and junior Brian Symonds will be in right field.

Junior Daniel McGunnigle will also play in the outfield. Sophomore Nick Popma will see time in the outfield and at catcher. Junior Brad Alvarez will serve as designated hitter.

It all adds up to what Tualatin hopes are the elements to another successful season.

'Our strength is our team chemistry - everyone gets along so well,' Unis said. 'And we're looking strong when it comes to pitching and defense. We hope to keep getting better throughout the season.'

As for the Pacific Conference this year, Unis sees a competitive battle for the top spots.

'Tigard will be real tough. They've got Tom Campbell back and he's second to none in the coaching ranks,' Unis said. 'Canby is the scrappiest group and I'd be lying if I didn't say our goal was to finish on top. I think the top three teams are on equal footing. Pitching will make the difference.'