Clackamas takes a 23-2 record and a 10-game win string into postseason play

by:  JONATHAN HOUSE - Senior shortstop Jake Iverson chases down a grounder during a recent game. Clackamas coach John Arntson says hes got the best defensive ball club hes ever had.Clackamas High School diamondmen last week continued their amazing run, sweeping their three-game series with Lakeridge and finishing 14-1 in the Three Rivers League and 23-2 on the regular season.

The 14-1 league record gained the Cavaliers only their second league baseball title in school history. They finished two games up on league runner-up Lake Oswego (19-7, 12-3).

The Cavaliers won their first league title in 2006, when they exited the state playoffs with a 6-4 first-round loss to Aloha, after going 15-6 (19-8 overall) in a balanced TRL, finishing a game up on Lake Oswego (17-10, 14-7) and 2006 state semifinalist West Linn (19-8, 14-7).

“We went 24-7 and 24-6 when we won our state championships [in 2008 and 2010],” said Clackamas coach John Arntson. “But the 23 wins is a school record for most wins in the regular season. This is a special bunch and I’m very proud of them.”

Comparing this year’s squad to his two state championship teams, Arntson said, “I don’t think we have the dominate pitcher like we had with Nick Struck and Ben Wetzler, but we’ve got three very good pitchers in Jared Bell, Austin Kelly and Taylor Stinson. They’ve been pretty-much complete-game pitchers in league and they’ve got a combined ERA of 1.0 something....

“This is the best defensive team I’ve ever had. And we’ve been swinging the bats a lot better recently, which is good to see. Offensively, one through nine, this is probably the best team I’ve had. People have been walking and trying to pitch around [first-team all-league infielder] Austin Kelly a lot, but a lot of times it ends up costing them, because there’s usually someone following Austin who hits him in.....

“The neat thing is we’ve been getting clutch hitting, and it’s been a different kid in every game....

“These guys are excited! Hopefully we can keep playing good baseball into the playoffs.”

Ranked fourth in the state and riding a 10-game win string, the Cavaliers have a practice game at Redmond (18-6), the second-ranked team in Class 5A, this Thursday. They host a yet-to-be determined opponent in next Monday’s first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

In games last week, the Cavaliers handled Lakeridge, winning 5-2, 6-2 and 5-4.

Bell (4 strikeouts, 2 walks) pitched a 3-hitter in the 5-2 win.

Leading 1-0, the Cavaliers won the game in the top of the third, scoring three runs with two down on base hits by Cole Scruggs, Stinson and Jarrod Switzer, and a two-run double to the left-center gap by Jake Iverson (2-for-4).

Kelly rounded out the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the seventh, his third home run of the year.

Stinson (4 strikeouts, 3 walks) pitched a 4-hitter in last week’s 6-2 win.

The Cavaliers once again got timely hitting. They scored two runs in the first inning on a run-scoring single by Stinson and a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Iverson. And they added four runs in the fifth, scoring on singles by Bell, Scruggs (2-for-3), Kelly, Stinson (2-for-3) and Iverson, a balk, and a bases loaded walk by Switzer.

“This was a big win,” Arntson said. “It clinched the league title outright. The kids were pretty excited because they wanted the outright title, and they wanted to do it at home. There was a lot of intensity in the dugout and on the field. It was pretty cool.”

Trailing 4-1 after four innings, the Cavaliers had to go to an extra inning to get by Lakeridge in last Thursday’s league final at Lakeridge. With one down in the top of the eighth, Garrett Myers reached on an error, advancing all the way to second on an overthrow at first. Bell then plated Myers from second with a one-out base hit up the middle.

Scruggs had a key hit in the top of the sixth. Myers singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bell, and scored on Scruggs’ double off the wall in right-center, tying the score at 4-4.

Kelly was sharp for the Cavaliers on the hill, striking out eight, walking two and allowing four hits and one earned run in a complete-game victory.

Eight Clackamas players combined to reach Lakeridge pitchers for 12 hits, led by Kelly (2-for-3), Scruggs (2-for-5), Stinson (2-for-5) and Switzer (2-for-3, 2 doubles).

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