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Baseball team hits the road

It would be fitting if the Lake Oswego baseball team made a habit of playing Willie Nelson's 'On the road again' while traveling on the team bus during the next month.

The Lakers will be on the road a lot during the next 30 days. In fact, all of their games during that time will be on the road.

The schedule wasn't written that way originally, but a change was necessitated after installation work began recently on a new turf field at Lake Oswego's ballpark.

'Obviously it's not the most ideal situation,' Lake Oswego coach Jake Anders said. 'So we're just trying to make use of what space we have.'

The best alternative Lake Oswego had for a facility was the junior baseball field at Waluga Park. But that field is a better fit for the school's junior varsity and freshmen teams. They'll trade off playing their home games at Waluga. And the varsity team will take to the road nonstop until the middle of April.

'We're just trying to make due … and not trying to make excuses,' Anders said.

The coach certainly wasn't making any excuses when his squad lost to Jesuit 9-6 in the season opener. Lake Oswego was ahead 6-1 in that game, and then everything came unraveled.

'It was probably good that it happened, because we need to know that people aren't going to roll over for us,' Anders said.

'It was a good wake-up call,' the coach added.

Opposing teams know they'll have to be ready when they play Lake Oswego, which advanced to the state quarterfinals last spring and made it to the Legion state tournament last summer.

The Lakers have a majority of their top players back from that team. That includes a group of six seniors - Matt Stutes, Bennett Frazier, Duncan White, Alex Freeman, Cooper Mandelblatt and Cam Yates - and some key juniors, including Jared Van Hoon, Mike Wesner, Moto Asai and Craig Mooney. There's several potential all-league players in that group, plus Van Hoon was the TRL's pitcher of the year last season.

'It a very good nucleus … and it's a pretty experienced group,' Anders said. Plus, 'they're great kids to be around.'

Anders believes this year's squad is as good as he's ever had at Lake Oswego, and that's saying a lot since the Lakers won the state championship in 2004.

That season also marked the last time that Lake Oswego won a TRL crown. West Linn the last two titles and will be one of the favorites (along with the Lakers) to do it this year.

'The (league) championship is going to go through them,' Anders said of the Lions.

The Lakers certainly don't have many holes in their roster. They're relatively deep in pitching with Van Hoon and Frazier, who might be the best No. 2 guy in the league. Plus, Mooney showed last summer that he's capable of filling the No. 3 spot.

Last year, though, Anders used Van Hoon almost to the point of exhaustion through the regular season. By the time he met Wilson in the state quarterfinals, 'he wasn't fresh,' the coach said.

'By the end of the season, that takes a toll on a guy's body,' the coach added.

So, this year Anders expects to spread out the pitching duties a lot more.

When it comes to offense, the Lakers can score runs with anybody. They gave a good example of that in a non-league game against Gresham last week. Somehow, the Lakers found themselves behind 10-0 after two innings, and 'then we started pounding the ball,' Anders said.

By the time the dust had cleared, Frazier had ripped a three-run homer in the third inning, and White had a two-run double in the fourth and added a two-run homer in the sixth.

While banging out 14 hits against the Gophers, the Lakers showed just how scary they can be on offense.

'On paper, we're a very good team. But we've got to go out and prove it,' Anders said.

The Lakers took the step to proving that on Tuesday when they registered a 6-1 victory over Oregon City in the league opener for both teams.

Van Hoon got the complete-game victory after throwing just 78 pitches.

'That's what we've come to expect from him,' Anders said of his hurler.

The Lakers got all of the runs they needed when they scored four times in the first inning. They then added two more tallies in the third.

Freeman got things rolling in the first when he was hit by a pitch and then stole second. After a walk to Mandelblatt, Frazier followed with a two-run double. Then Wesner singled and White singled home Frazier. Two batters later, Van Hoon got a sacrifice fly to score Wesner.

Action in the third started with a walk to White and an error that allowed Van Hoon to reach. Then, Jeff Kremer singled in a run and Stutes did the same moments later.

That set the stage for Thursday's key match-up between Lake Oswego and West Linn. Of course, the game will be played at West Linn and get underway at 4:30 p.m.