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Gladstone hardballers take charge

The Gladiators improve to 9-1 with wins over Stayton, La Salle and North Marion

GLADSTONE - Gladstone High diamondmen last week tightened their grip on first place in the Capital Conference, upping their league mark to 9-1 with wins over Stayton (4-2) and conference title pretenders La Salle (8-0) and North Marion (2-0).

The Gladiators entered play this week as the only conference team with fewer than three losses in conference play. They were ranked ninth in the state in last week's Class 4A coaches poll.

Last Friday's game at La Salle was a lot closer than the final score might indicate. It was still a 1-0 ball game heading into the top of the seventh, when the Gladiators strung together five hits with two errors to put seven runs on the scoreboard.

'I can't say enough about Austen Cote,' said Gladstone coach Casey Webster. 'He was fabulous! He was phenomenal on the hill - throwing breaking balls for strikes, hitting the corners with his fastball, and throwing hard on a cool day….

'Our defense was good too. We were solid all game long and we came up with some huge plays.'

Cote pitched a complete game, striking out seven and walking one in a 4-hitter, and Cote's teammates played error-free defense behind him.

Gladstone defenders twice turned possible extra base hits into outs.

In the fourth frame, when it was still a scoreless tie, Brady Regier fielded a hard hit ball in center field and threw a shot to Taylor Taft at second to catch Kramer Croisant trying to stretch a base hit into a double.

And in the seventh frame, right fielder Brett Holte fielded a ball off the fence and fired to Casey Young, who relayed to Taft at second in time to catch Bobby Ragasa attempting to stretch a single into a double.

Holte, Thane Rice, Trey Durkee, Taft and Bubba Armstrong all had base hits in Gladstone's seven-run seventh inning. Rice drove in two runs with a timely single; Young plated a run with a sacrifice fly.

The Gladiators took advantage of a Falcon error to score the game's only other run in the top of the fifth. Holte reached on a fielding error, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Eric Johnson, and scored on a two-bagger by Rice.

Taft (3-for-3) and Rice (2-for-3) headed the Gladiator offense.

Mike Oborn and Shane Brady pitched for La Salle, striking out three, walking two and yielding eight hits.

La Salle leadoff batter Cam Mitchell (2-for-3) had a pair of singles in the losing effort.

Armstrong's arm and timely hitting were keys in last week's 4-2 win over Stayton.

Armstrong fanned 11 batters and walked two, while scattering six hits.

The Gladiators scored runs in four different innings. With the score tied at 2-2, they put the game-winner on the scoreboard in a two-out, fifth inning rally.

Holte walked, advanced on a base hit by Mason Larkins, and scored on a base hit by Rice.

Rice (2-for-3) was the only Gladiator to make contact for more than one hit in an eight-hit offensive attack.

The 2-0 win over North Marion was a dogfight. Each team made contact for only four hits. But the Gladiators made their hits count, and they played error-free defense behind Larkins.

Larkins went the distance on the hill, striking out four and walking three. Larkins (2-for-2) also made contact for two of the Gladiators' four hits and scored the winning run.

'Mason Larkins pitched a great game!' said Webster. 'He only threw 87 pitches and he threw strikes when we needed them. He made some great pitches.'

Larkins led off the third inning with a single, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Rice and scored on a sacrifice fly by Austen Cote.

Armstrong led off the fifth with a double, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Holte, and scored when North Marion's catcher threw the ball away on an attempted pickoff at third.

North Marion threatened in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with one down. But Young, Taft and Armstrong teamed up to turn a game-ending double play.

Young was also part of a double play that saved a run in the second inning. With two runners on, the Gladiator second baseman handled a line drive and doubled a player off at first to end the inning.

Gladstone hosts Molalla (6-3) this afternoon and the Gladiators play North Marion (6-4) on the road on Friday.

Through their first 10 conference games the Gladiators boasted a .354 team batting average. Armstrong (.455), Larkins (.455), Young (.417) and Durkee (.400) were the top sluggers.