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Prep Watch

by: , BAKER

Saying 'I'm not a good fit … I'm too old school,' veteran football coach Ray Baker is leaving Cleveland High and taking over the program at Sandy.

Baker's lone Warrior team went 2-7. The 60-year-old Baker, who prefers rebuilding projects, will have that opportunity at Sandy, which lost its final eight games last fall to finish 1-8 and at the bottom of the Mount Hood Conference.

Baker praises the Cleveland administration and community for their support but says the PIL 5A school's program could benefit from a coaching change.

'It's probably the most difficult decision I've had to make in coaching,' he says. 'I think it's a Ray Baker problem, not a Cleveland High School problem. I like the kids; I just couldn't get the lessons across to them that I wanted to.

'I'd be surprised if they're not in the playoffs next season, but I don't know if I can do much more there, with my coaching style and philosophy.

'I'm doing this in the best interest of Cleveland and myself. To stick around and be stubborn about things would not be good.'

Baseball: Despite its lack of experience, defending Class 2A/1A state champion Portland Christian is in prime position to take its second consecutive league championship.

The third-ranked Royals are 15-5 overall and 10-3 in league going into today's 3 p.m. doubleheader at home against Knappa (8-5 in league).

Portland Christian, which starts five or six freshmen and sophomores, has just two experienced seniors - Eric Tolleson and Greg Thompson, both all-league players a year ago.

Tolleson began the week hitting .595 in league with 12 RBIs and a .630 on-base percentage. Thompson was hitting .323 with 12 RBIs. Tolleson, the winning pitcher in the 2007 state finals, has been limited on the mound this year by shoulder problems.

'We've looked good at times, and we've looked really young at times,' coach Ryan Miller says. 'Sometimes I have to catch myself and remember that they are so young.'

Freshmen Keegan Rogers and John Church have shown their talents already, though. Rogers went into the week leading the Royals with 14 RBIs to go with his .333 batting average, and Church was 6-1 on the mound while batting .393.

Sophomore Vance Downey, the Royals' starting shortstop last year, was off to a 4-1 start on the mound with a 1.52 league ERA.

'Our pitching in the playoffs is what will carry us,' Miller says. 'When we're clicking offensively, we're pretty good.'

- Steve Brandon and Jesse Severson