BASEBALL: Coach Arntson says he's got three strong pitchers and the most depth in talent that he's ever had

CLACKAMAS - The Clackamas Cavaliers graduated some key players from last year's team that captured a league baseball title for the first time in school history.

But that doesn't mean the Cavaliers won't be successful this spring.

'I think we have a good chance of repeating [as league champions], mostly because of our pitching,' said Clackamas team co-captain Derek House.

'I feel like this year we have a better all-around team,' said team co-captain Justin Sweet. 'Our pitching, defense and hitting are all pretty good. I think we'll go further in the playoffs.'

'We have a lot of talented kids, and they've got experience,' said team co-captain Brad McMurphy. 'They may not have started, but most of the kids played varsity last year and we all played together in summer ball.

'Our summer team made it to the second round of the playoffs and I don't think a Clackamas team has done that in awhile - if ever.'

'I like our pitching a lot,' said Clackamas coach John Arntson. 'We've got three pretty darn good starters.'

Arntson said he sees Lake Oswego, with eight returning starters, as the preseason favorite to win league. And he says West Linn should be in the hunt.

'If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Lake Oswego,' he said. 'I see us battling Lake Oswego and West Linn [for the league title]. But Oregon City and Lakeridge should be good, and Putnam and Milwaukie could be spoilers. Putnam has some guys that can swing the bat and Milwaukie's got to be the most improved team in the league.'

Arntson said of his ball club, 'I've never had a team with this much depth. We've got 14 kids that can play.'

Several talented players up from a jayvee team that went 19-3 have bolstered the Cavaliers' prospects.

Among those lost to graduation off of last year's Three Rivers League championship team are first-team all-leaguers Brett Davis (first base), Andy Hebrard (third base/closer), Nate Reif (pitcher), and Mitch Webb (catcher). They all swung big bats, carrying batting averages of .510, .417, .367 and .359 respectively.

Senior Kyle Taylor (.409 batting average) and McMurphy (.367) return to lead the Cavaliers at the plate this spring. A second-team all-league selection in the outfield, Taylor will start at first base this season.

McMurphy returns to start in centerfield for the third year in a row. He garnered honorable mention all-league honors a year ago.

McMurphy went 3-for-4 at the plate, with two doubles, three runs scored and three stolen bases in an 8-1 win over Wilson last Saturday.

Taylor went 3-for-4 with his bat in a 13-7 win over Centennial last Friday.

The three starting pitchers Arntson is high on are senior left-hander Derek Davis and junior right-handers Nick Struck and Corey Davis.

Derek Davis pitched in Clackamas' successful jayvee program last season. He throws the hardest of the three, according to Arntson.

Struck was the No. 2 pitcher for the Cavalier varsity a year ago.

'Nick's got pretty good velocity a good curve ball and he's very competitive,' said Arntson.

Corey Davis did not pitch last season, but he saw action on varsity as an infielder.

Corey Davis pitched six innings of 2-hit ball, striking out six and walking one in last Saturday's 8-1 rout of Wilson.

'Corey did a great job of throwing all three of his pitches for strikes,' said Arntson. 'I think his pitch count was in the low 70's.'

'I consider all three my No. 1,' Arntson said. 'They're all pretty good starters.'

The talented trio teamed up for a 2-hitter in a 3-1 season opener at McMinnville, striking out 13.

Derek Davis and junior right-hander Jake Nolte teamed up to get the job done in a 14-8 win over Centennial last Friday.

The Cavalier diamond boss says that Taylor and Nolte are his top relievers. Nolte was the No. 1 pitcher on jayvee a year ago.

Last year Struck started at shortstop when he wasn't pitching. He'll share the position with Corey Davis this season.

Struck also has a pretty good bat. He hammered a solo home run and a 2-run single in last week's win over Centennial.

Sweet, who earned honorable mention all-league honors at second base last year, will start at third and first this year.

House, another honorable mention all-league selection, returns to start in the outfield.

Senior Kenny Petersen (catcher) and junior Jon Walters (second base) have also earned starting spots in the Cavalier lineup this spring. Walters hit a home run in the Centennial game.

Senior Alex Luchak, junior Ryan Cook and Derek Davis will be battling for time in right field. Luchak will also see action at designated hitter.

The Cavaliers were to begin league play on March 20 with an away game with Lakeridge.

They entertain Milwaukie this Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

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