Theyve got most of their pitching back from 2012

by: RYAN LAGRANGE - Pitching will be a strength for Oregon City this spring, as the Pioneers return their top four pitchers from last years state championship team, including first-team all-league pitcher Rilyn Lewchuk (11).The Oregon City Pioneers return many of the players that earned them their school’s first state baseball title a year ago, and Pioneer assistant coach Mike Lord says the Pioneers have the same goal in mind as they gear up to make a run this spring.

“Our mission statement hasn’t changed,” Lord said. “‘Relentless pursuit of a championship.’ And the kids know the equation. They know what it takes to get there.”

Still, Lord has no illusions that the Pioneers will breeze to a Three Rivers League title as they strive to be the state’s best baseball team by the time the state playoffs role around.

“I don’t see a dominant team in the league,” Lord said. “Just like last year, one through six, it’s going to be a battle. We’ve got to come to play every night, because any team in the league can beat you.”

Last year the 2012 state champion Pioneers (20-11, 9-6) and Clackamas (16-11, 9-6) tied for second in the TRL, finishing back of Lake Oswego (23-5, 13-2).

The Pioneers return their top four pitchers from last year in senior starters Rilyn Lewchuk, Tyler Moon and Jacob Tipton, along with senior reliever Dustin LaGrange. And they’ve got two other talented relievers in sophomore Austin Johnson and senior Luke Ehli, a transfer from Clackamas.

Lewchuk was a first-team all-league selection in 2012. LaGrange was named to the league’s second all-star team, and Moon received honorable mention in the league all-star balloting.

Clay Reece, who started at third base last season, moves behind the plate to take over for his brother, 2012 graduate Jon Reece.

Senior Jake Phillips returns to start at second base, Tipton returns to start at shortstop when he’s not pitching, and seniors Cary Swalwell and Dillon Riley return to start in the outfield.

Other players likely to see starting action include: sophomore Bo McClintock at first base, Lewchuk and sophomore Noah Myers at third base; Lewchuk and junior Jack Powell in left field; and junior Terrel Hood in center field.

Lewchuk and the Pioneers were tough in their season opener, a 6-1 win over Barlow. Lewchuk pitched the first six innings and picked up the win, striking out five, walking one and allowing four hits.

After going hitless through the first 5-1/3 innings, the Pioneers reached Barlow starter Cameron Hawkins for three runs in a six-run sixth inning. The Pioneers walked three times, and Phillips, Reece, Tipton, Lewchuk and Myers all hit safely in the pivotal inning.

“Fatigue set in with their No. 1 guy,” Lord observed.

The Pioneers had pitcher control problems of their own last Friday, when they lost 7-6 at Hermiston. Oregon City pitchers Johnson, LaGrange and Moon combined to walk six batters in the losing effort. Hermiston scored the game-winner on a sacrifice fly with one down in the bottom of the seventh.

“We had a hard time throwing strikes consistently,” Lord said.

Lewchuk and Myers both rapped doubles to lead seven Oregon City players who connected for hits.

The Pioneers entertain Lincoln Thursday at 5 p.m., and they play Tigard at Tigard at 3 p.m. on Friday.

They travel to Hillsboro Stadium for a three-day tournament next week, playing Madison Monday at 12:30 p.m. in their opener.

Oregon City begins league play on Monday, April 8, playing Clackamas on the road in the first game of a three-game series with the Cavaliers.

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