LO baseball christens new field with win

Lakers beat Putnam to move into first place in TRL standings
by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Alex Freeman slides safely into third base during the first inning of last Friday’s TRL game against Putnham. It was Lake Oswego’s first game on the school’s new artificial turf field, which was partially donated by the manufacturer, Field Turf Inc. Lake Oswego won the game 6-3, thanks in part to a stellar pitching performance by Bennett Frazier and a solo home run by Cooper Mandelblatt.

It was well worth the wait.

The Lake Oswego baseball team finally got to play its first home game of the season last Friday and the day could not have turned out any better.

As most local sports fans know by now, the Lakers had been forced to play the first two-thirds of their season on the road while they waited for construction crews to complete the installation of their new artificial surface, which is a product of Field Turf Inc. That field, which was dedicated to the late Les Darby, a longtime local sports supporter, gives the Lakers possibly the best home field in the state.

So, it was fitting that on such a big day for Lake Oswego High School, the Lakers beat Putnam 6-3 to move into sole possession of first place in the Three Rivers League.

'It was a great day,' Lake Oswego coach Jake Anders said after the game. 'It was an outstanding (pre-game) ceremony. And we couldn't be prouder to have the new field dedicated to Les Darby … And I think everyone was excited to come to a home game.'

After 18 straight games on the road, the Lakers finally got to play their first home of the game of the year. And local fans got a chance to see a team that has been playing well lately.

For the first five innings, it seemed nothing could go wrong for the host team. That included a stellar pitching performance by Bennett Frazier - possibly his best effort of the year.

'Bennett Frazier just threw an outstanding game,' Anders said.

And his teammates provided the kind of timely hitting that had been sorely lacking in a one-run loss to Milwaukie just the week before.

After a three-up, three-down top for the first for Frazier, leadoff hitter Matt Stutes got things going for the Lakers in the bottom of the first with a line-drive single. That, of course, gave him the first hit ever on the new field.

Stutes then promptly stole the first base on the new field when he swiped second. But his head-first slide left him digging out rubber pellets, which form the base of the new field, from the inside of his pants and jersey.

Alex Freeman, the No. 2 hitter, was then the first player on the new field to receive a nasty bruise when he hit by a pitch. Cooper Mandelblatt followed with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up one base, and Frazier plated the first run (scored by Stutes) with a sacrifice fly to right. One batter later, Michael Wesner made it 2-0 with a single that scored Freeman.

'Our key was to get out and score some runs early,' Anders said.

The Lakers threatened to bust the game open in the second inning after a double by Jeff Kremer and another single by Stutes, but they wound up being stranded on base. But Mandelblatt made up for that when he led off the third with a solo homer into the net above the leftfield fence.

'He was struggling earlier in the season,' Anders said of Mandelblatt. 'But he's a good contact hitter and (home runs) are going to happen. That's why he's in the 3 hole.'

The Kingsmen nearly got that run back in the fourth but the Laker infield erased that threat with a 5-4-3 double play from Mandelblatt to Moto Asai to Wesner.

Lake Oswego made it 6-0 in the bottom of the fourth thanks to four errors by the Kingsmen. The frame started when Asai was safe on a throwing error by the Putnam third baseman. After a single by Stutes (his third of the game), Freeman reached on a dropped throw to first on a sacrifice bunt.

Then, after one out was recorded, two Kingsmen committed errors on a grounder by Frazier. The first error, which was made by the second baseman, allowed Asai to score. The second error, on a throw by the shortstop, allowed Stutes to score. The Lakers tacked on a another run in that frame on a sacrifice fly to center by Jared Van Hoon.

Meanwhile, Frazier breezed through the first five innings on the mound and gave up just two hits during that span. But he ran into trouble in the sixth when four hitters reached base - three on singles and one by a walk. The last of those singles scored a pair of runs to cut Lake Oswego's lead to 6-2.

The Kingsmen scored one more time in the seventh despite managing just one hit in the inning. The leadoff hitter, who had singled, made it to second on a groundout, third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

'I really wasn't happy with two of the runs they scored,' Anders said. 'But we played solid defesively behind Bennett.'

The real winner on Friday, though, was the high school and the overall baseball program. They now have a field that will seemingly last forever.