As league play starts, little is certain
Youth, suspensions, injuries, transfers add questions to PIL 5A
It's far from the strongest baseball league in the state, but it might be one of the most interesting. The PIL 5A begins counting play this week with all four varsity teams a bit of a mystery.
Cleveland, which earned the league's top state playoff seed last year, is very, very young and has five players on suspension until next week.
Roosevelt, which tied Cleveland at 12-3 last season, didn't play a preseason game and has limited numbers and pitching.
Marshall came on late in the 2007 campaign, upsetting Cleveland down the stretch, and the Minutemen just went 4-0 in March nonleague games.
And Madison looks much improved over last spring, when the Senators were 1-14 and just beginning to rebuild under first-year coach Mike Keller.
'I think our league will be pretty balanced,' Keller says.
• Roosevelt coach Greg Schwartz says he'll be able to field a team, 'and we're out to get Cleveland this year.' The Warriors edged the Roughriders for the No. 1 state berth by winning their season series 3-2 last spring.
Roosevelt's top players include infielders Danny Fuhrer, Anthony Hulstrom, Justin Wilmoth and Cameron Jackson and center fielder Chris Schneider.
'We're going to be a good hitting ballclub again,' Schwartz says, 'but the pitching's not too great.'
• Cleveland has several freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, including frosh shortstop-pitcher Cole Hamilton and frosh catcher Silas Potter. Another ninth-grader, Ruben Unrau, had a surprisingly impressive debut last week.
But Cleveland went 0-6 in preseason and will be without some key players a little longer; 20 athletes in all (from track and field, golf and tennis, as well as baseball) received a month's suspension for various rule violations.
And with the team's youth (no seniors at the moment), 'We're tiny,' coach Casey Dyer says. 'Last week, we might have had one player who was 6 foot and one close to the 200-pound mark.'
• Marshall has most of its team returning and beat Corbett, Woodburn and two out-of-state teams in preseason.
'But it's so early. We haven't really been tested,' coach Paul Pietrzyk says.
Top Minutemen include seniors Nick Crawford (pitcher-third baseman) and Bryan Crawley (outfielder-first baseman-pitcher). Junior Nick Pietrzyk can play almost anywhere, and junior Ronnie McKenna returns at catcher. Junior Michael Sullivan joins the team as a right fielder, primarily.
Sophomore Adam Fletcher pitched in all four preseason games. And senior Darryl Delley will pitch after missing last season with a broken leg he suffered while playing basketball.
Also overcoming adversity is senior Hoang Huyen A. He broke his right (throwing) arm in football but managed to place second in PIL 5A wrestling at 103 pounds. Now he's trying to play right field, the position he manned last season.
'He wrestled with that arm, but he just can't throw with it. He hasn't obtained full extension, so he throws like a catapult,' coach Pietrzyk says. 'He's still getting some therapy. He's a tough kid, and he bats like a little Ichiro - he's a lefty, slap hitter, and a really tough out.'
His brother, Hoang Huyen B, will start in left field.
• Marshall lost one of its top players, Andrew Good, via transfer to Madison. Good made the all-league team at shortstop last season and will be one of the Senators' top pitchers.
Madison also has senior John Collier, who has enrolled this year after being unable to play for the Senators last spring, because he was a home-school student who lived in the Grant district. 'He'll win some games for us,' Keller says.
The Senators went 0-5 in preseason, which included a tough trip to Arizona, where they played five games in 'about 48 hours,' Keller says, 'and played three teams nobody in our league is remotely as good as … so it was like a little boot camp thing for us.'
Another transfer, outfielder Jake Lutton from Benson, should help, but the Senators have eight returning players. Among them: catcher Cesar Pacheco, first baseman Jordan Duilio, second baseman Cody Zillmer, left fielder Tony Hamilton, center fielder Forrest Rogers and right fielder William Taylor. And D.J. Lincoln, a senior, has turned out and could start at third base.
'We have 33 kids in the program after finishing with 14 last year,' Keller says. 'And our varsity team GPA is over 3.0.'
• Last year, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Marshall made the state playoffs; this year, it's the league's turn to have only two teams make it. And all four have that goal in mind.
Franklin hasn't played a game, but the Quakers hope to play host to Putnam today.
'The kids are starting to get a little frustrated; we're loaded up and ready to go,' coach Robbie Trebelhorn says.
Franklin has had games rained out versus Reynolds, Barlow, South Eugene, Grants Pass and Lincoln. 'One day we were going to play Grants Pass, but they needed to know if our field would be ready because they were driving up,' Trebelhorn says. 'The forecast was for rain, so they didn't come, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. Another time, they had a bus but no driver.'
Trebelhorn says the Quakers have all seniors, most of them varsity lettermen, including first baseman Chris Schultz, 'a hitting machine,' and utility player Colin Donald, 'a good hitter and athlete.'
'To say we'll be in playoff contention would be getting ahead of ourselves - we're going to have to work really hard,' Trebelhorn says, 'but I think we have the potential to do well.'
Central Catholic hopes to get back injured sophomore pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby (stress fracture) next week. The Rams graduated five seniors from the team that took second in Class 6A last season and were 3-4 going into Monday's scheduled Mount Hood Conference opener against formidable David Douglas.
Central Catholic has only one senior, Alexa Pelling, who led the team in preseason batting average. Returning juniors who played a lot in 2007 are Erin Guidarelli, who is expected to shift from second base to shortstop or third base; Laynee Bevins, who will play short or catcher; and Megan Wallo, the likely center fielder.
Also back are junior outfielder Katie Scherpe and sophomores Kendall Boliba (right field-pitcher) and Inglesby.
Three freshmen could contribute, too -Cheyne Corrado; second baseman Katie Mardesich, who played for Cedar Mill in the 2006 Little League World Series; and Makala Hemming, a catching candidate.
The PIL won its fourth Oregon High School Hockey League title in five years, beating Pacific 4-3 in a shootout last month at Memorial Coliseum.
Freshman Dillon Abate scored the only shootout goal as the city squad finished the season with a 14-1-2 record.
Pacific forced overtime by scoring with 52 seconds left in the third period.
The PIL goals, in order, came from Noah Dolinajec, Myles Smertzler and David Weaver.