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Everyone plays as Lakers go 2-2

by: Vern Uyetake, Lake Oswego’s Chris Howard, above, follows through after delivering a pitch in last weekend’s Firecracker game against The Dalles. The Dalles won the game 10-6.

Lake Oswego's American Legion baseball team, sponsored by NW Realty Group, turned in a mixed bag of results at Lakeridge's annual Firecracker Tournament this year.

The Lakers featured a variety of line-ups over the course of the four-day tournament and showcased a mixture of seasoned veterans and underclassmen who will be vying for playing time on the diamond next spring.

Lake Oswego also turned in a variety of performances throughout the tournament, looking terrific at times. But they struggled with consistency and finished 2-2 overall.

'We found out a lot about our team. It was a good opportunity to play a number of guys who aren't everyday starters,' coach Jake Anders said.

The Lakers faced a tough draw early on. In their first game of the tournament they squared off against Southridge, the team that eventually went on to claim the championship.

Southridge had one of the best line-ups out of the eight teams in attendance. Lake Oswego dropped the bout 11-4 but, after looking back at how other teams fared against the same team, that result starts to appear better.

Lake Oswego actually held the lead midway through the contest but Anders pulled his starters early to not wear out their arms and Southridge slowly took the lead and held on for the win.

'This tournament definitely tested our pitching staff. We might have been able to hold on to win that game and then play in the championship but that's not the way we approached it,' Anders said.

The Lakers rebounded on Sunday when their bats caught fire against a team from Sammamish, Wash. Lake Oswego hit the ball well for the majority of the tournament and jumped out to a quick lead on Sunday.

Duncan White had the biggest hit of the day, a grand slam to pad his team's lead.

Lake Oswego also got its best pitching performance of the tourney in this game. Jared Van Hoon was strong, going five innings and shutting out Sammamish in five innings of work. Due to the 10-run lead, the game was called after five innings.

'Jared was real solid as usual,' Anders said.

That win set up an important showdown against The Dalles. The winner of the game would emerge from the pool as the second seed heading into Tuesday's final round.

The Lakers dug themselves a hole in the early going, falling behind 5-2 after just two innings. Then, in the fourth, The Dalles posted two more runs on an RBI single and an RBI groundout.

But Lake Oswego battled back. In the bottom of the fourth, Jeff Kramer walked, Jordan Frazier singled and Alex Freeman was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

After Van Hoon lined out, Cooper Mandelblatt came through with an RBI single and Frazier scored moments later on a wild pitch. However, Lake Oswego failed to plate another run in the inning leaving the score at 7-4.

The Lakers kept The Dalles off the board in the fifth and sixth innings but failed to score with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth.

'It was a little disheartening. We left 14 guys on base and left the bases loaded three times, so that's something we need to work on,' Anders said.

Then, in the sixth, Mandelblatt led off with a double and Moto Asai reached base on an error. Michael Wesner walked to load the bases with one out and another error scored a run for the Lakers. Kramer then followed with an RBI groundout to cut the lead to one with an inning to play.

If Lake Oswego could keep their opponents off the board in the top of the seventh, they had to feel good about their chances to win the game in the home half given the way the team had been putting the ball in play all afternoon.

However, after two quick outs, the Lakers got into trouble. A walk and a weak single were followed by a two-run double. The Dalles tacked on their final run one batter later to make the score 10-6.

Lake Oswego got off to a good start in the bottom of the seventh when Van Hoon reached second base on an error but failed to get another base-runner and lost the contest.

That loss set up a contest against Sandy on Tuesday. Sandy was only playing with an eight-man line-up, meaning that they only had two outfielders on defense.

Lake Oswego took advantage of this handicap early, scoring in each of the first four innings en route to a, seemingly, insurmountable 12-1 lead.

But then the wheels started to come off for the Lakers. Craig Mooney pitched a solid four innings but got into trouble in the fifth and ended up yielding four runs.

Still, there didn't appear that there was much to worry about. Then, in the top of the sixth, Sandy came through with a two-run home run and Steve Smith came in from the bullpen.

However, two errors, including one on an easy toss to first base with two outs, led to four more runs. That made for a six-run inning from Sandy and made the score 12-11.

Lake Oswego was unfazed as they entered the bottom of the sixth and continued to rake the ball. When the dust settled, the Lakers had posted seven more runs and held on for a 19-11 victory.

'We were hitting the ball pretty well. That's the goal. One of our big priorities is to have our line-up from one through nine be amongst the best in the state,' Anders said.

The victory moved the Lakers to .500 for the tournament and they will now focus on the remainder of the regular season. Currently, Lake Oswego is undefeated in league.

'The kids know our plan for the summer. We're playing to win in our league games. We have a bunch of them in a row coming up, so it's going to be an important stretch,' Anders said.