After suffering through possibly the most difficult season in school history, the Lakeridge baseball program now has nowhere to go but up. But the Pacers had trouble just fielding an American Legion team this summer.
The Pacers found themselves short-handed after some of their players opted to play for a composite team in Clackamas. Rather than force the remaining players to the sidelines for the summer, the Pacers opted to join forces with Westside Christian, which advanced to the state 3A quarterfinals during the recently completed school season.
It looked like a good fit, although it meant having to drop down to single-A ball instead of the triple-A level that the Pacers have played at for many years.
With plenty of depth - there's nine players from each program - the new-look Pacers seemingly could have dominated the single-A ranks. Yet, the team struggled at the start of the season, although it's showing signs of a late-season turnaround.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, seven of the Westside players will end their season on July 7 in order to fulfill prior ministry commitments. No one is questioning the noble endeavors the Westside players are preparing to embark on, but their remaining teammates will have their work cut out for them as they try to advance through the upcoming league tournament.
Heading into the season, coach Adam Sarancik, who turned Westside's program around during his two years there, decided it would be best if the playing time this summer was divided evenly among the team's 18 players. So, he makes wholesale substitutions after the fourth inning of each game.
'That's what I've held to all season,' Sarancik said.
The coach also has had to juggle his lineup occasionally to accommodate players with commitments to other sports, or when they're away on family vacations.
'That, along with the emphasis of playing everyone, hasn't translated into a lot of wins,' Sarancik admitted.
Actually, Sarancik is not really sure what the Pacers' summer record is, saying 'we weren't really concerned with wins and losses.'
Yet, it's pretty clear that there's enough fight among the team's players that they're trying to win every game they play.
During the team's annual Firecracker Classic last weekend, the Pacers won only one of four games, but the team easily could have gone 3-1.
In the first round, the Pacers lost a 7-3 decision to a Horizon Hawks team that is allegedly loaded with college players. The second round brought an impressive 8-4 victory over La Salle.
Then there was an 8-5 loss to Gresham. The Pacers were down 8-0 after six innings and looked like they were destined to get blown out. But Lakeridge responded with five runs before running out of time in the seventh inning.
On the final day, the Pacers were down 12-2 to St. Helens going into the bottom of the seventh. But Lakeridge scored nine runs in the final inning and had the tying run on third when the last out was recorded.
It was the kind of effort that would make any coach proud.
'They're competing hard at times, and they definitely want to win,' Sarancik said. 'You feel bad for the players when the results don't always match up with the effort.'
Fortunately, the Pacers got a bit of redemption on Monday when they beat Beaverton 6-1 in a league game.
Sarancik would like to see the winning ways continue when the Pacers play at North Marion on Friday and then at Franklin for a doubleheader on Saturday.
But that will mark the end of the season for seven of the Westside players and for Sarancik.
Taking over for the remainder of the season will be Lakeridge's legendary coach, Royce McDaniel, who has helped Sarancik coach the Pacers through most of the summer. McDaniel certainly knows a thing or two about winning. He won a state high school baseball title in 1974 and then led the girls basketball team to a state title in 1991.