Putnam coach Jason Stanley likes what he sees

If the pitchers perform to their potential, Rex Putnam baseball coach Jason Stanley believes his Kingsmen will be in the thick of things in the Northwest Oregon Conference title chase again this year.

The Kingsmen went 16-5 in the eight-team NWOC last year, finishing second in the conference only to state semifinalist Sherwood (23-5, 19-2) and advancing to the Class 5A quarterfinals, before losing to 2012 state finalist Summit.

“We have a pretty good hitting team, but we won’t have the home runs we had last year....,” Stanley said. “I think we’ll be good defensively. I think we’ll be a solid team, if our pitchers pitch to their potential. Hopefully we’ll be right there in the mix [in the NWOC] like we were last year.”

Stanley noted that the Kingsmen will miss the bats of graduates Mason Dunning, the 2012 NWOC Player of the Year, and first-team all-league outfielder Zach Martin.

“Mason had 13 home runs last year and he led the state,” Stanley said. “And I think Zach Martin had five home runs. We have good hitters, but we don’t have anyone on the team [this year] that can hit 13 home runs.”

Stanley said he expects NWOC teams Sherwood, Wilsonville, Liberty and Sandy all to field strong teams this spring.

He’s lined up one of the toughest preseason schedules in the state in order to get his Kingsmen ready for league.

They met Class 6A teams Sprague and Lake Oswego in last week’s season openers.

They play 6A McNary on the road this afternoon and they entertain 6A West Linn this Thursday.

They travel to Tigard Saturday through Monday, where they’ll square off with Class 6A teams from Churchill, Clackamas and Central Catholic, and Class 5A Lebanon.

Then its on to NWOC openers with Sherwood (April 2 and April 3) and Wilsonville (April 5 and April 9).

Back to lead the Kingsmen are three players who were all-league selections last year: senior pitcher/first baseman Evan Lochridge, senior outfielder Eli Skiles and junior shortstop Trace Loehr.

The Kingsmen also return seasoned varsity players in seniors Jordan Sander (catcher) and Justin Wyler (DH/second/pitcher), and junior Dylan Knoth (utility infielder).

Putnam returns two of its top three pitchers from the 2012 high school season in Lochridge and Wyler. And Stanley says that senior pitcher Max Bailey, who sat out last high school season with a broken hand, made a strong showing in summer ball.

Stanley is also counting on Knoth and junior letterman Corey Wells to make significant contributions on the hill this spring.

The Kingsmen looked good in their season opener, a 10-0 win at Sprague. Lochridge pitched the first five innings and silenced the Olympians’ bats, while Putnam sluggers hammered out 11 hits.

Loehr (4-for-4, 2 doubles, 3 RBI) and Skiles (3-for-4) headed the offensive fireworks.

It was a different story in last Friday’s game with Lake Oswego, a 14-3 loss.

“Except for Todd Weiderhold, who pitched the last 2-1/3 innings and shut them out, our pitching wasn’t great,” Stanley said.

The Lakers reached four Putnam pitchers for no fewer than 18 hits.

Skiles (3-for-4, double, 2 runs scored) had some good at bats for the Kingsmen.

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