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Turnaround underway at Milwaukie

BASEBALL: The Mustangs are off to a 2-0 start

MILWAUKIE - Milwaukie High's baseball program appears to be on the upswing under first-year head coach Brian Duhrkoop.

The Mustangs launched the 2007 season last week with a pair of victories, dropping Gresham 2-0 and Reynolds 5-2.

'The kids are pretty excited,' said Duhrkoop. 'I asked them when was the last time they won two games in a row, and they said, 'Never.'

'I'm excited! It's not so much the two wins in a row, as there's a whole change in attitude.'

Duhrkoop graduated from Milwaukie High School in 1999, when he played for a team that was the last Mustang team to experience any degree of success in baseball. Heading into the 2007 season, Milwaukie varsity baseball teams had won only nine games over seven seasons. They went 2-19 in league and 3-23 overall last season.

The Mustangs have a good nucleus of experienced players heading up this year's lineup.

Seven players return with starting experience, including seniors Taylor Matteson (catcher), Nick Chambers (first base), Ben Vermillion (shortstop), Matt Bergio (third base), Adam Phillips (centerfield) and Jacob Waker (right field); and sophomore Taylor Davis (second base).

Waker was a second-team all-league outfielder last season and he's one of the top returning pitchers in the Three Rivers League, if not in the state.

Waker fanned 12 and walked one, while allowing three hits in last week's 2-0 win over Gresham.

'Jake was lightning,' said Duhrkoop. 'There were a couple of college scouts there and they were impressed. He had great movement on the ball, he was hitting his spots and he was mentally tough. He pitched himself out of a couple of jams when he got strikeouts with people in scoring position.'

Waker and Vermillion both garnered honorable mention all-league honors last season for their play in the field, as did Davis.

Waker heads up a pretty good stable of Mustang pitchers.

'We're not running out of pitching,' said Duhrkoop. 'We've got 15 kids who can pitch.'

Sophomore Daniel Brink and senior Nick Chambers got it done for the Mustangs in last week's 5-2 win over Reynolds, as they shared pitching duties and scattered four hits.

Chambers, a side-armer, relieved Brink in the Reynolds game and allowed just one hit and no runs in 1-2/3 innings.

The Mustangs have only one left-hander, sophomore Travis Anders.

Duhrkoop says he is too new to TRL baseball to pick a favorite in league.

'I think the Three Rivers League is going to be a competitive league, and I'm just excited to be a part of it,' he said.

The Mustangs were to host cross-town rival Putnam in Tuesday's league opener. They entertain Lakeridge on Thursday, and they host Cleveland in a non-league game on Friday.