They take a 9-1 record and a .343 team batting average into the league season

Clackamas High School diamondmen were looking good heading into this week’s Three Rivers League baseball openers.

After going 9-1 in preseason, the Cavaliers were ranked third in the state in the OSAA power rankings heading into this week’s series with defending state champion Oregon City. The Cavaliers had home games scheduled with the Pioneers (6-4) on Monday (April 8) and Friday (April 12), and they were scheduled to play the Pioneers on the road this afternoon.

“I thought we’d be a good team, but we’re a little better than I thought we’d be,” said Clackamas coach John Arntson. “We’re hitting better than I expected. One through nine, we’re hitting pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised with that. When you’re batting .343 as a team, you can’t complain.

“We’re pretty deep in pitching, just like I thought we’d be. And we’ve been playing pretty good defense. Our [new turf infield] may have something to do with that....”

Through play last Friday, the Cavaliers had four players hitting .381 or better. Leadoff hitter Garrett Myers had a team-leading .538 batting average. The junior outfielder was 8-of-8 on stolen base attempts. He had six extra-base hits and a team-leading 13 runs scored.

Senior first baseman Jarrod Switzer had a .429 batting average. Senior infielder Austin Kelly (.414) had five extra-base hits and 11 RBI. Junior designated hitter Cade Wilkins had a .381 batting average; junior outfielder Michael McDonald had four doubles and a team-leading 13 RBI.

Kelly (2-0, 1.70 ERA) and juniors Jared Bell (3-0, 1.03 ERA), Josh Devore (1.62 ERA as a closer) and Aaron Ahlstrom (16 strikeouts in 10 innings) have been the most impressive on the mound.

The Cavaliers tasted their first defeat of the season on April 2, a 10-8 setback at the hands of West Salem. But they bounced back in their next game, handling Jesuit 11-2 on April 4.

“Our kids were fired up for [the Jesuit game],” Arntson said. “Both teams were in the top five in the rankings, so it was a big game for us. We had a great practice on Wednesday, after the disappointing loss at West Salem. And we played our best game of the year [against Jesuit].... I was really pleased with the way the kids bounced back after a tough loss.”

While Bell silenced the Crusaders’ bats, the Cavaliers got the job done at the plate as well, hammering out 11 hits in the 11-2 victory.

Bell, in a complete game, struck out four, walked no one, scattered seven hits and allowed just one earned run.

“I thought Jared was outstanding,” Arntson said. “He only threw 69 pitches, and 50 of them were strikes. He was unbelievably efficient. He did a great job throwing strikes and he got a lot of ground-ball outs.”

Kelly headed up the offense, going 3-for-4 and driving in five runs. He had a run-scoring single in a three-run first inning, a two-run home run in the third frame, and a two-run single as the Cavaliers went up 7-2 in the fourth frame.

Senior Ryan Gilbert (2-for-3) had a run-scoring single in a four-run fifth inning, and he scored twice. McDonald had a two-run double and Bell had a RBI-double in the fifth frame.

The Cavaliers were also sharp on defense, with senior shortstop Jake Iverson teaming up with sophomore second baseman Luke Burns and Switzer to turn two double plays.

Last week’s loss to West Salem was especially painful because it was a game that the Cavaliers let get away from them. They were leading 8-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth when Arntson elected to go with Ahlstrom, Zach Farnes and Devore in relief of Kelly.

Kelly (4 strikeouts, 3 walks) allowed just two hits and the one run in five innings of work. Ahlstrom, Farnes and Devore gave up nine runs in one inning on four hits, six walks, a balk and one error.

Myers (2-for-2, double, 3 runs scored), McDonald (2-run double) and Wilkins (RBI-single and RBI-sacrifice fly) led the Cavaliers at the plate, as they outhit their hosts 8-6 in the losing effort.

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