OC 12-year-olds are winners

Their bats and an emphasis on 'team' have made the Black Sox among the best youth baseball teams in the state

OREGON CITY - A 12-year-old Oregon City team is one of the biggest surprises in Clackamas County Junior Baseball this summer.

Through play last Thursday the Oregon City Black Sox Juniors were 11-2 in league, their only league losses both to an undefeated Tualatin team that won the Little League state title two years ago.

Heading into play this week, the standout Oregon City team had outscored 13 league opponents by an average tally of 12-5.

What makes the Black Sox's success surprising is that this is the first year the players on the team have played together and they are playing at the Federal level, which is the highest competitive level in Oregon Junior Baseball.

'We have very strong hitters, excellent pitching and solid defense,' said Black Sox head coach Dave Gattuccio.

The Sox have been especially impressive at the plate. Through their first 29 games they had a team batting average of .489, with 295 stolen bases, 21 home runs and 296 runs scored. 'Everyone on the team can hit the ball,' said Gattuccio. 'It's a different kid stepping up every night.'

Through play June 19 the Black Sox had seven players hitting .500 or better: Luke Morris (.662), A.J. Mayo (.613), Marc Morris (.540), Louis Wolf (.536), Q.J. Botefur (.521), Erich Regan (.514) and Jonathan Reece (.500).

Morris had a team-leading 38 RBI and 49 stolen bases. Mayo had 32 RBI and 39 stolen bases. Botefur had eight home runs.

But the Sox have talent and depth on the mound as well. Gattuccio says every player on the team has pitched in at least one game.

It was Marc Morris and Eric Peterson getting the job done last Thursday in a 4-0 win over Molalla. The talented duo combined for 11 strikeouts in a no-hitter, and only one Molalla base runner got past second base. The Sox turned two double plays in the game.

Botefur was Oregon City's top pitcher heading into play last week, fanning 73 batters in 51-2/3 innings; Luke Morris, Marc's cousin, was No. 2, with 39 strikeouts in 27-2/3 innings.

'[This team is successful] because of the coaching,' said Kay Neumann, whose son Jared Neumann was one of two returning players from a lower level team that Gattuccio coached last year. '[Coach Gattuccio is] very positive with the boys and they have fun, but at the same time they are very disciplined.

'Dave has a passion for the game that he brings to the field every day. He wants to teach the boys and pass on that passion. He loves the game, he loves the boys, and it shows…He's a great role model!'

'These boys have bonded extremely well,' said Gattuccio. 'The success is because they do things as a team.'

'[We're successful] because we work together as a team,' agreed Peterson.

'We all support each other,' said Marc Morris.

'We all cheer each other on, and we don't get down on one another,' said Peterson.

'Another reason we're successful is we've got good coaching,' said Morris. 'The coaches know the game and they expected us to be disciplined, but they're not too hard on the team.'

'We try to keep everything positive,' said Gattuccio. 'We're big on positive reinforcement. The last thing a kid needs when he makes an error is someone telling him what a terrible play he's made. He knows when he's made a mistake without someone telling him.'

The Sox conclude their 16-game league schedule on July 11. Then it's on to the Clackamas County Championship Tournament (July 21-23 in Woodburn) and the State Junior Federal League Tournament (July 27-30 in Reedville).

'When these boys play Black Sox baseball, there's no doubt in my mind they can take first in state,' said Gattuccio.

Gattuccio gave his definition of 'Black Sox baseball': 'Playing together as a team.'

Marc Morris said, 'Black Sox Baseball is the best baseball we play - it's top of the line. If we play Black Sox Baseball I think we can win state.'

All of the Sox players finished up the sixth grade during the past school year.

Team members include: pitcher/outfielder Luke Morris, third baseman Louis Wolf and pitcher/first baseman Q.J. Botefur from Redland Elementary; shortstop A.J. Mayo from King; first baseman/pitcher Marc Morris from Beavercreek; catcher Erich Regan from St. John's; second baseman/pitcher Jonathan Reece from Holcomb; outfielder/pitcher Eric Peterson and third baseman/outfielder Shawn Hepler from Gaffney Lane; first baseman/outfielder Brady Stroh from McLaughlin; and third baseman/outfielder Jared Neumann from Mt. Pleasant.

Dan Manassero, Alan Mayo and Sam Peterson have assisted Gattuccio in coaching the team. Kay Neumann is team mom/statistician.

'It takes everyone working together to make a team successful,' said Gattuccio. 'Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, as well as the players and coaches.'