The upstart Pioneers find themselves among the league leaders after the first complete week of league play
by: timothy j. park, Oregon City pitcher Leif Gambee puts the tag on Milwaukie senior Jacob Waker as Waker attempts to score during last Thursday's game.

The upstart Oregon City Pioneers are earning a reputation as 'giant killers' in Three Rivers League baseball.

The unheralded Pioneers claimed three victims last week, defeating league powers Clackamas (12-7) and Putnam (7-0), and taking care of business in competition with Milwaukie ace Jacob Waker in a 9-4 win at Milwaukie.

Clackamas and Putnam were both ranked among the top 6A teams in the state at the time of their losses to the Pioneers.

Oregon City (7-5, 3-1) finished last week tied with West Linn (7-5, 3-1) in second place - behind Putnam (8-4, 4-1) - in the TRL standings.

'We've had real strong pitching, and our guys are swinging their bats with confidence,' said Oregon City coach Adam Randall. 'We're getting real timely hitting. We're aggressive with our bats, but we're disciplined. We're not chasing a lot of bad pitches.'

Randall praised pitchers Jay Kirchhofer, Brad Tinsley, Leif Gambee and Nicholas Watson for getting the job done on the hill.

The Pioneers out-hit their opponents 33-20 in last week's contests, making contact for 11 hits in each of the games.

Known for carrying big bats, the Kingsmen had averaged 8.5 runs a game heading into last Wednesday's 7-0 loss at Oregon City.

Kirchhofer was huge, striking out four and walking two Putnam batters, while scattering six hits.

'He was throwing all of his pitches for strikes and he was throwing them for strikes anywhere in the count,' said Randall. 'He had them pretty confused.'

The contest was a nailbiter until the fifth frame, when the Pioneers unleashed their bats for four hits and six runs.

Jake Nelson led off the fifth with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Jake Doran. Logan Taliaferro singled. Then the floodgates opened.

Eric Larson plated both Nelson and pinch runner Gambee when Putnam's pitcher overthrew first on a squeeze play.

Rayce Belmont singled in a third tally. Ryan Zornado singled, and K.C. Maughan rounded out the scoring with a three-run home run, his first roundtripper of the season.

Kirchhofer helped his own cause with three hits in four at bats, including a double.

Clackamas sported a season record of 6-2 heading into the Cavaliers' April 2 game with the Pioneers.

The Pioneers took control of the game early and were up 12-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh when Clackamas staged a huge rally, scoring seven times on seven hits and a walk.

The game-ended when Belmont chased down a fly ball with an over-the-shoulder catch in deep left field. Trailing 12-7, Clackamas had two runners in scoring position at the time.

Tinsley was sharp on the hill for the Pioneers through the first six innings. But he began to tire in the seventh, and he left the game with the bases loaded.

David Greenstein (3-for-4, one double) and Kirchhofer (2-for-3, three-double, four RBI) headed the Pioneer hit parade.

The Pioneers came out with their bats swinging and drove Milwaukie's Waker off the mound after four innings, reaching the Mustang ace for eight hits and six runs.

Greenstein led the offensive fireworks, with a solo home run, two singles and two RBI.

Gambee pitched the first six frames, scattering four hits, striking out five, walking two and yielding four runs - two of them earned.

Doran and Maughan both had extra-base hits.

The Pioneers host West Linn this afternoon. They draw a bye from league action on Friday and play the Lions in a rematch at West Linn next Monday.

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