Holding their own with the big boys

Youth is no handicap for these Cavaliers

A year ago they proved themselves among the top 10-year-old baseball teams in the state. And this year, as 11-year-olds, they are holding their own with many of the top 12-year-old teams.

They are a Clackamas Junior American Division Junior Baseball team coached by John Kirsch.

Last summer, playing at the highest level, they finished second only to Reedville at the Junior Baseball Organization Midget Federal Division state championship tournament.

Beginning this Thursday, they'll be one of 12 teams in Lebanon, vying for the Junior American Division state title. They'll be the only team in the Junior American state tournament made up entirely of fifth graders.

Typically teams in the highly competitive Junior American Division consist mostly of sixth graders.

Kirsch's 11-year-olds have earned their spot in this year's state tournament. They went 15-3 and won first place in their Clackamas County league. They then finished third in the county Junior American tournament, defeating teams from Milwaukie (3-1), Tualatin (5-3) and Silverton (13-12), while dropping a pair of games to West Linn (16-1 and 13-10).

'The main thing for us is fundamentals,' Kirsch says. 'Defense and hitting have kind of carried us. Our pitching is good, but our pitchers aren't as big and they don't throw as hard as some of the pitchers we go up against.'

The team enters the state tournament with a season's record of 24-13, with many of their wins coming over teams that are made up almost entirely of sixth graders.

Players on the team include: Zandon Elliott (second base/outfield), Blake Marcella (pitcher/outfield), Mark Cadieux (third base/pitcher), Ryan McDonald (shortstop/pitcher), Tommy Gutierrez (second base/outfield), Ryan Ahlstrom (pitcher/shortstop), Cole Turner (first base), Cole Hegar (outfield/second base), Mitchell Modjeski (utility/pitcher), Kyle Kirsch (catcher/pitcher), Jakobe Erskine (outfield/third base) and Jake Zehr (outfield/catcher).

All but three of the boys played together a year ago on the Clackamas Midget Federal Division team that finished second in the county and second in the state.

The team is coached by John Kirsch, Steve McDonald and Doug Ahlstrom.