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Bats go silent in 3-0 loss to surging Rex Putnam squad

by: Vern Uyetake, West Linn’s Ryan Barnes places a tag on a Rex Putnam runner attemping to steal second. The runner was gunned down on a throw by Lions’ catcher Mitch Bailey. The Lions lost the game 3-0 and are now 1-1 in the Three Rivers League standings.

The general consensus early this spring was that the Three Rivers League baseball title would be a two-horse race between West Linn and Lake Oswego. But, suddenly, a new contender has emerged and may end up being the team to beat as the season progresses.

The Rex Putnam Kingsmen looked impressive in the preseason, going 4-2 against solid competition. They also showed that they could crush the ball on any given day, pounding Lakeridge 30-9 in their league opener.

But Putnam's biggest test of the year occurred on Monday when the Kingsmen took on West Linn. The Lions were able to quiet Putnam's bats for the most part, but were stymied at the plate all afternoon and dropped a disappointing 3-0 decision, their third consecutive loss.

Things simply didn't go West Linn's way on Monday. The few chances the Lions had to score runs were thwarted by some unfortunate situations and West Linn's pitcher Kyle Kraus had the Kingsmen on their heels for the entire contest with the exception of a five-minute stretch in the second inning.

Kraus only yielding six hits in the game but four of those were knocked consecutively in the second inning, giving Putnam all the offense it would need.

Kraus also struck out six batters but, on this day, West Linn's offense couldn't get off the ground. Putnam's starter wasn't particularly overwhelming. The Lions put the ball in play all afternoon but were kept off-balance, which led to a number of ground balls and weak fly-outs.

West Linn's first batter of the day hit the hardest ball of the afternoon. Ryan Barnes led off by flying out at the wall in straight-away centerfield. In the second inning, Colby Martzall eventually reached third base after being hit by a pitch but the Lions couldn't plate him.

Then, in the bottom of the second, Kraus gave up a lead-off double. The ensuing batter knocked a single and a throwing error allowed a run to score. The Kingsmen followed with an RBI double, a single and a sacrifice fly, which would be all the scoring recorded in the game.

West Linn appeared to be on the verge of answering Putnam's outburst in the top of the third when Ryan Connolly led off with a double. Barnes followed with a fly-out to centerfield and Connolly tagged up, beating the throw to third base.

However, the Kingsmen threw to second base after the play was over and Connolly was called out for leaving the base early, which put an end to the threat.

In the fourth inning, Alex Edwards walked and reached second base on a ball in the dirt but was stranded in scoring position.

Then, in the top of the fifth, Mitch Bailey was hit by a pitch with one out. Connolly followed with a hard-hit drive toward right field. However, the umpire ruled that the ball hit Bailey, who was running on contact and he was ruled out while Connolly took second base.

That left just one runner on base with two outs and, once again, the Lions couldn't come up with the clutch hit.

Kraus worked out of a small jam in the bottom of the fifth and was able to strand a Putnam runner at third base after a lead-off double.

West Linn mounted one more scoring opportunity in its last chance at bat. With one out, pinch hitter Max Cathcart reached first base and a throwing error allowed him to move to second.

Joe Offer followed by drawing a walk but the threat was thrwarted when Bailey hit a sharp ground ball directly to third base which led to a game-ending double play.

The Lions will square off against a struggling Lakeridge team today (Thursday) at home at 4:30 p.m.

Then, on Monday, West Linn will travel to Milwaukie to take on the Mustangs. The Lions won't face Putnam against until April 23 and their final league game of the season will also be against the Kingsmen on May 14.