Lions suddenly alone in first

by: Vern Uyetake, FILE PHOTO - Kyle Kraus has put together a stellar junior season so far and, most recently, tossed a complete game and earned the win in a 3-2 victory over Oregon City.

Nearly midway through their Three Rivers League schedule, West Linn's baseball team finds itself in sole possession of first place. The bats have heated up for the Lions and Kyle Kraus starts on the mound have practically become sure victories recently.

Kraus was stellar on Monday in an important game against Oregon City. The junior went all seven innings, scattered nine hits and struck out seven batters in a 3-2 victory that put the Lions two games ahead of the rest of their competition.

The Pioneers put the ball in play for most of the afternoon but Kraus was at his best when the game was on the line and routinely worked out of trouble.

'Kyle kept himself in the ball game. He's been battling really well and now he's getting some run support,' West Linn coach Mike Lord said.

West Linn's offense came up with timely hits, the two biggest coming off the bat of Colby Martzall. In the bottom of the first inning, Martzall drove in Justin Monahan with two outs to put the Lions on the board.

Then, in the bottom of the third inning, Martzall came up big again, knocking in Ryan Barnes and Ryan Connelly to complete the scoring for the afternoon.

'Colby's our leader in RBIs right now which is important, having him hitting behind Justin and Kyle,' Lord said.

First baseman Eliot Smith also had a nice game, going 2-for-3 and boosting his average over .300 as he fills in for injured Alex Edwards. Edwards is expected to return from a broken wrist for the playoffs.

The win was big considering that Oregon City had been one of the hotter teams in the league heading into the game.

West Linn had also come off a decisive 14-1 win over Milwaukie last Friday. Spencer Flores picked up the victory in that game, throwing five innings but the Lions didn't open things up until midway through the contest.

'I think our pitching has been the catalyst recently. A number of guys are throwing the ball well right now,' Lord said.

After three innings, the Lions led 2-1 but then plated four runs as Monahan, Martzall and Joe Offer each came through with RBI singles. West Linn knocked home four more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Monahan and Kraus and an RBI double by Offer.

In the sixth and seventh innings respectively, Reid Pearson and Mitch Bailey each knocked solo home runs to pad the lead.

Bailey's shot was his fourth of the year as he continues to keep up the tradition of hard-hitting catchers for the Lions.

'Between Mitch and Kevin Coddington we've had some great catchers in the past few years,' Lord said.

Although West Linn is currently riding a hot streak, there is still plenty of room for improvement heading into the second half of the season.

'We've been struggling a bit defensively and that's something we usually take a lot of pride in,' Lord said.

West Linn's next game is scheduled for this Friday against Lakeridge. The Pacers are currently in last place in the Three Rivers League. But next week will be crucial for the Lions as they take on Lake Oswego, Putnam and Clackamas consecutively.