Lakers up, down but still in first place
It's a good bet that everyone on the Lake Oswego American Legion baseball team will be exhausted by the end of the week. It will all be worth it, though, if the Lakers wind up as league champions.
Lake Oswego, which is sponsored by NW Realty Group, was in first place with 6-1 league record heading into this week's action. However, it's hard to say where the team will wind up since one-half (seven games) of the Lakers' summer league schedule was slated to be played this week.
That included one game on Monday against West Linn, two games on Tuesday against Wilsonville, two games on Wednesday against Tualatin, one game on Friday against West Linn again and one game on Saturday against Canby.
It sounds more like a schedule in Major League baseball, but it's just the way Lake Oswego coach Jake Anders likes it.
'Hopefully you're playing your best ball at the end of the season. That's why we do this,' the coach said.
If Monday's game against West Linn is any indication, the Lakers will be just fine by the week's end. Even though they were facing highly-touted West Linn pitcher Kyle Kraus in that contest, the Lakers made it look easy as they rolled to a 15-4 victory.
'We had a pretty good performance,' Anders said in what was almost an understatement.
Matching up against Kraus was Lake Oswego ace Jared Van Hoon, who was the pitcher of the year in the Three Rivers League this spring. He was pitching on only three days of rest, but the short layoff was virtually no factor at all.
Van Hoon raised his summer league record to 3-1 with a complete-game effort that surprisingly included no strikeouts.
'He didn't pitch his best game … (but) he didn't run into any trouble until the fourth,' Anders said of Van Hoon.
By the West Linn half of the fourth inning, Lake Oswego already had a 5-0 lead. So, when Van Hoon gave up two runs in that frame, Anders didn't have much cause for concern. And the game was all but decided by the time the Lions scored a pair of runs (including a solo home run) in the bottom of the seventh.
A nine-run sixth inning, which gave Lake Oswego a 14-2 lead, made it easy for Van Hoon and Anders to relax.
'When you give Jared a big lead, he's tough to beat,' Anders said.
Virtually everyone on the Lake Oswego roster contributed to the offensive fireworks. The Lakers had two players - Jeff Kremer and Jordan Frasier - with three hits each. The night included a double and a pair of RBIs for both as well.
Moto Asai, Mike Wesner and Bennett Frasier each logged a pair of hits. Asai also had a double while Bennett Frasier, who was returning after a 12-day layoff, had a solo home run (in the second) and a pair of walks.
As luck would have it, much of Lake Oswego's production came from the bottom portion of the lineup.
'Our 6, 7, 8 and 9 hitters really carried the load for us,' Anders said. 'Hats off to those guys. They came through when we needed them.'
For the game, Lake Oswego scored single runs in the second and third innings, and then three in the fourth, nine in the sixth and one more in the seventh. It's rare to score that often against a West Linn team. In fact, just beating the Lions might have been good enough.
'Beating them in a league game is very important,' Anders said.
That victory also helped Lake Oswego make up for a 5-3 loss to Lakeridge last Thursday. It was a game in which Van Hoon pitched well enough to win but he was unable to overcome a couple of miscues by his defense.
'I think Jared pitched well enough to win the game,' Anders said. 'But we didn't make the routine plays.'
In that game, a sixth-inning misplay in the outfield allowed Lakeridge to score the two runs that made the difference in the game.
The Lakers then lost a chance to open some distance between themselves and their closest pursuers when they dropped one of two games against Wilsonville on Tuesday. The 7-6 loss in game 2 gave Wilsonville its first league victory this summer.
'That was very disappointing,' Anders said. 'We were kind of going through the motions … I think the (Lake Oswego players) thought that at any time they could put up 10 runs and win the game.'
Instead, it was Lake Oswego that had trouble keeping Wilsonville off of the bases. The seventh inning was especially difficult. The Wildcats mounted a game-winning three-run rally in that inning and did it with only one base hit. But Wilsonville also reached on a pair of errors and three walks, including one that forced in the winning run.
'Walks will kill you,' Anders said.
The first game was all LO, though, as Bennett Frasier, Smith and Van Hoon each had two hits. Plus, Wesner had a home run and two walks. Craig Mooney was the winning pitcher with an outstanding effort that included four strikeouts.
Despite winning only one of two on Tuesday, Lake Oswego still held first place in the league standings with an 8-2 mark. That should be good enough to get the Lakers a good playoff seed but Anders doesn't want to see his team coast through the end of the regular season.
'Hopefully we can get re-focused,' the coach said.