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OC hardballers at the top of the heap

The Pioneers sweep Putnam as they stretch their league mark to 7-1
by: John Lariviere, Oregon City's Rayce Belmont goes head over heels — but still scores — in a collision with Rex Putnam catcher Chris Baker during a game last Friday.

Three weeks into the league season, the Oregon City Pioneers find themselves at the top of the heap in a competitive Three Rivers League baseball title chase.

With a three-game sweep of Putnam last week, the Pioneers improved to 7-1 in league (10-3 overall).

Preseason favorites Lake Oswego (6-2), Clackamas (5-3) and West Linn (3-2) were second, third and fourth respectively in the standings. All three teams were ranked in the top 10 in last week's Class 6A coaches poll.

'The thing I'm most happy about is we've been winning, and I don't think we've reached our peak as far as our potential,' said Oregon City coach J.J. Winkle.

In last week's games, the Pioneers defeated the Kingsmen 7-0, 7-2 and 13-10.

Ryan Huntting pitched in the shutout, striking out eight, walking one and hitting three batters, while scattering four hits.

Brad Tinsley was sharp on the hill in last Friday's 7-2 win. The senior ace struck out 10, walked five and allowed four hits in five innings of work. Relievers Bryce Fransen and Alex Gay moped up.

Ryan Martin turned an unassisted double play to silence a Kingsmen threat in the sixth. Gay made it three-up and three-down in the seventh, when the Kingsmen flew out three times to Rayce Belmont in center.

Oregon City's 13-10 win was a slugfest, as the two teams combined for 22 hits. Oregon City pitched by committee, with five different players taking a turn on the hill.

The Pioneers got some help from the Kingsmen, who committed seven errors and gave up five unearned runs.

Oregon City took charge of the game in the second inning, scoring nine times on four hits, two Putnam errors and five walks.

But the Kingsmen battled to the end, and made a game of it, scoring runs in five different innings.

Putnam pitcher Sean Eberhardt hit a grand slam home run. Kingsmen senior Tyler Wiest went 3-for-4 with three doubles, as the Kingsmen earned a 12-10 edge in hitting.

Alex Gay led the Pioneer hit parade with a grand slam home run. Huntting went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored three times. Leif Gambee (2-for-4, 3 RBI, 3 runs scored) led off the game with a solo home run.

'Leif has been pretty incredible as our leadoff hitter,' said Winkle. 'He's got 23 runs in 13 ball games. He gets on and we go.'

It wasn't until the fifth inning of the 7-0 shutout that the Pioneers put the Kingsmen away. Oregon City scored five runs in the pivotal inning, which included an overthrow at first base that allowed three runs to score.

Dylan Foley (2-for-4) was the only Pioneer to make contact for multiple hits. Martin and Gay both hit doubles.

Putnam pitcher Ryan Smith struck out 11 and walked two in the losing effort.

'Their kid on the mound did a great job,' said Winkle. 'He was throwing breaking balls for strikes. He kept us off balance all night.'

The Pioneers cranked up their bats for 14 hits in Friday's 7-2 win over the Kingsmen.

Gambee went 3-for-4 at the plate with a triple and a double. Martin (2-for-3) came through with two run-scoring base hits. Tinsley (2-for-3) helped his own cause with a pair of singles. Foley went 2-for-3 and stole two bases; Gay had a pair of hits, including a double.

The Pioneers put enough runs on the scoreboard in the first inning to win the game.

Gambee doubled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Foley and scored on a base hit by Martin.

Martin stole second and scored on an error following a base hit by Belmont. Gay singled, and Belmont scored on a successful double steal.

'This team reminds me of some of the better teams Oregon City has had,' said Winkle. 'We've got great senior leadership. The seniors are arising to the occasion and the rest of the team follows.'

This week could be a big one for the Pioneers, because they have their three-game series scheduled with West Linn, with two of the games at West Linn.

The Pioneers entertain the Lions tonight at 6:30. They close out the series Friday at West Linn.