The West Linn baseball team has found a groove early in the season, using timely hitting and some stellar pitching performances to roll off a three-game winning streak after suffering its first loss of the season to Jesuit,
The most important of those games was the Lions' first league contest against Lake Oswego, the team expected to be West Linn's biggest challenge in its quest for another league championship.
West Linn won the rivalry's first battle of the season in convincing fashion, knocking off the Lakers 10-3.
'It was big for us because we know Lake Oswego's a team that could win the league,' West Linn coach Mike Lord said.
Kyle Kraus took the mound for the Lions and continued his streak of solid pitching performances. The senior rarely got himself into trouble and all three of the runs he yielded came on solo home runs.
West Linn never trailed in the game, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning, the second coming on a bases loaded walk drawn by Colby Martzall.
The Lions benefited from the inconsistency of Lake Oswego starter Bennett Frasier all afternoon. West Linn drew a handful of walks and took numerous extra bases on wild pitches.
'Their guy's a pretty good pitcher but he had a tough time,' Lord said.
Lake Oswego's Jared Van Hoon knocked a solo shot to left field in the top of the second to cut the lead in half but the Lions got on the board again in their half of the second inning.
Ryan Barnes came up with an RBI double with two outs and, after Justin Monahan drew a walk, Kraus helped his own cause with an RBI single, making the score 4-1.
Matt Stutes led off the top of the third with a solo home run for Lake Oswego but Kraus retired the next three batters.
In the bottom of the fifth, with a 5-2 lead, Barnes led off with a double and Monahan reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second base on an errant pick-off attempt. One batter later, Martzall came through with an RBI single.
Krause gave up his final run of the game in the top of the fifth when Stutes crushed his second home run of the day, but West Linn had more than enough firepower to hold off the Lakers.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Lions put the game away. Barnes continued his stellar afternoon by coming through with a one-out, three-run home run. Monahan followed and was hit by a pitch. He took second base on a wild pitch and Kraus scored him one batter later to complete the scoring for the game.
'Right now we're really getting some timely hitting and some solid pitching to back it up but we know we have to stay consistent every day,' Lord said.
Over the break, the Lions traveled to Arizona for an annual tournament and captured the first two games they played in.
Against Monarch, Colo., West Linn's Reed Nicholson tossed a four-hit shutout to lead his team to a 7-0 win. Nicholson struck out seven batters in the efforts and didn't yield a walk. Only two Monarch batters reached second base in the game.
'Reed really threw his change-up well and that added some pop to his fastball,' Lord said.
West Linn mustered eight hits on the day. Ryan Connelly had two hits and two runs while Kraus was a perfect three-for-three and had a pair of RBIs.
The next day, the Lions topped a very talented team from Columbine, Colo. 6-5 as Spencer Flores picked up his first varsity win.
Flores threw five innings and gave up five runs while the Lions scored all of their runs in the first three innings.
In the first inning, Alex Edwards had an RBI single, Martzall added an RBI groundout and Reid Pearson chipped in with a sacrifice fly.
Then, in the third, Edwards came through with a two-run single. Jimmy Lovero took the mound in relief in the sixth inning and closed the game out.