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Gladiators stumble, but remain on top

Gladstone hammers Cascade and Estacada, but comes up short at Molalla

Gladstone High hardballers last week maintained their grip on first place in the Capital Conference despite a 6-5 loss to Molalla on Thursday.

The Gladiators got a little help on Saturday, when La Salle upset Molalla 5-2.

With wins over Cascade (8-1) and Estacada (21-6) in other games last week, the Gladiators improved to 6-1 in conference (8-5 overall).

Molalla (10-3, 6-2) was half a game back, in second place. La Salle (5-8, 4-3) and North Marion (5-5, 4-3) were tied for third.

'We would have liked to have gone 18-0 [in conference],' said Gladstone coach Casey Webster. 'But it's a long season. We're happy to be in this position. Hopefully we'll keep swinging the bats, get some good pitching, and play a little better defense.'

The Gladiators, who were ranked fourth in the state in last week's Class 4A coaches poll, committed six errors in last Friday's rout of Estacada.

'We had a little drama early [in the game at Estacada],' said Webster. 'We threw the ball around and made some mistakes in the early innings. But I knew that eventually we'd pick it up with our bats and turn things around.'

Nursing only a 3-2 lead, the Gladiators erupted for nine hits in a 12-run fourth inning to put the Rangers away. And they finished with 20 hits on the night.

Alex Armstrong (3-for-3) hit a three-run home run in the fourth. Brady Regier (3-for-4) had a two-run double and a two-run single in the pivotal inning. He also hit a solo home run in the first inning.

Drew McNall (3-for-6, 5 RBI) added a grand slam home run in the seventh.

Casey Young (4-for-6) drove in three runs with a timely double and three singles.

Austen Cote and McNall pitched, striking out six and walking three, while giving up four hits and only one earned run.

Molalla senior Jeremy Sprague was the Gladiators' nemosis in last Thursday's 6-5 loss at Molalla.

Sprague went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a home run and two doubles for five RBI. His two-run, one-out double in the bottom of the seventh earned the Indians the victory.

Molalla senior Riley Falk went the distance on the hill, striking out four, walking five and allowing only six hits.

'We hit the ball and we hit the ball hard,' said Webster. 'But they made some great defensive plays, and we had some line drives that were right at people.'

Gladstone pitchers Mason Larkins and Kevin Peterson, combined for seven strikeouts, while issuing four free passes and allowing eight hits.

The Gladiators got some help in their 8-1 win at Cascade on April 8. The Gladiators only had four hits, but the Cougars booted the ball around, committing four errors.

Bubba Armstrong was a key for the Gladiators. He went the distance on the mound, striking out 13 and walking no one in a 5-hitter.

'It was cold and wet, but when Bubba's on the mound, he's good,' said Webster. 'You don't lose a lot of games when your pitcher strikes out 13.'

Webster added, 'We didn't hit the ball very well, but we had guys put the ball in play when we needed to.'

Regier and Young both hit home runs. Young had a solo shot in the third. Regier had a two-run round tripper in a 3-run fifth-inning rally that put Gladstone on top 4-1.

McNall went 2-for-2 with his bat, and scored twice.

Four of the Gladiators' eight runs were unearned.

The Gladiators were to host Stayton (3-4) and North Marion on Monday and Tuesday. They meet La Salle on the road on Friday and they have an away game with Cascade (2-4) next Monday.