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Gladstone hardballers continue on a mission

The Glads add three more w's and they clinch the Capital Conference's top seed in the Class 4A state playoffs

GLADSTONE - Gladstone High School's baseball team continued on a mission last week, as the Gladiators hammered out 38 hits en route to lopsided Capital Conference wins over Stayton (13-1), Estacada (7-0) and Molalla (14-7).

They appear determined to improve upon last season, when their bats fell silent and they bowed out of the state playoffs with a loss to an unheralded team from Hidden Valley in their first playoff game.

'They definitely want to go further than last year,' said Gladstone coach Casey Webster. 'Their focus has been pretty good all season. They've worked hard and they show up at the ball park ready to go.

'We've got eight underclassmen on this team that were a part of last year's team. That [playoff loss to Hidden Valley] has been in the back of their minds all season and they're determined not to let something like that happen again.'

With last week's wins, the seventh-ranked Gladiators improved to 13-1 in the Capital Conference and clinched the conference's top seed in the Class 4A state playoffs.

La Salle (11-5) was in second place heading into this the final week of the regular season.

The Gladiators were to wrap things up, hosting La Salle on Monday, Cascade (6-8) on Tuesday and this afternoon, and playing at Molalla (9-6) on Friday.

The Gladiators sported a team batting average of .365 entering play this week. Bubba Armstrong (.500), Drew McNall (.462) and Mason Larkins (.441) had the top averages.

Armstrong (2-for-2) hit a 3-run home run in the first inning, scored three runs and had four RBI in Saturday's 14-7 win over Molalla.

Led by Casey Young (3-for-4) and McNall (3-for-4, 3 doubles, 3 runs) the Gladiators reached Molalla pitchers for 18 hits.

'Every starter got a hit,' Webster said.

It was fortunate that the Gladiators swung their bats, because Armstrong struggled on the mound, yielding four walks, seven hits and all seven Molalla runs in 3-1/3 innings on the hill.

'Bubba was not sharp,' said Webster. 'But I can't say enough about [relief pitcher] Kevin Peterson. Kevin came in throwing strikes and he kind of saved our bacon.'

Peterson allowed only one hit and no walks, while striking out three in 3-2/3 innings of relief.

Gladstone scored five runs in the first inning on base hits by Young and Brady Regier, a runs-coring double by McNall and Armstrong's round-tripper.

The Gladiators scored three more in the third on a double by McNall, one walk and run-scoring singles by Armstrong, Larkins and Thane Rice.

And the Gladiators added five runs in the sixth, scoring on a walk, a hit batsman, a double by McNall, and timely hits by Larkins, Rice and by Trey Durkee.

Larkins and Peterson pitched in last week's shutout of Estacada. Larkins fanned three and walked two, while scattering four hits in six innings.

Larkins (2-for-3, 2 runs) and Rice (2-for-3) headed the effort at the plate.

Taylor Taft was tough on defense, making five assists at shortstop.

It took the Gladiators just five innings to 10-run Stayton.

Young (2-for-2) had the big stick, driving in five runs with a two-run double, a two-run single and a run-scoring sacrifice fly.

McNall had a two-run double in a three-run first inning.

Nine different Gladstone players made contact for hits in an 11-hit attack.

Austen Cote pitched, striking out three and walking four in a 2-hitter.

Gladstone will begin the state playoffs on Tuesday, May 20, when the Gladiators (15-5, 13-1) host the winner of a game between the second place team from the Sky-Em Conference and the third-place team from the Far West Conference.