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Putnam youthful Junior Americans excel in postseason


Youth was no handicap for Rex Putnam’s Junior American baseball team this summer.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - There was no 11- and 12-year-old Junior American baseball team better than Putnam in 2013. The Kingsmen proved that to be the case July 12-14, when they won first place at the county championship tournament. Pictured with their championship hardware are: (first row, from left) K.J. Ruffo, Perry Collman, Nick Geertsen, John Foglio and Oscar Quick; (second row) Gavin Lund, John Irish, Korbyn Amundson, Rob Collman, Derek Douangphrachanh and Hayden Wilson; and (back) coach Mark Collman, coach Bruce Wilson, Dakota Reber, coach Jason Reber and head coach Mike Geertsen.The Kingsmen sported one of the younger Junior American teams in the state, but they still finished as state runners-up, after winning first place in Clackamas County.

Only three players on the team will have to move up to the Senior Division for 13- and 14-year-olds next summer. Nine are expected to return to play at the 11- and 12-year-old Junior level.

Still, Putnam coach Mike Geertsen insists he is not at all surprised with this summer’s success.

“I felt going in [to the state tournament] we had a real good shot [at playing for the state championship],” Geertsen said. “Our overall fundamentals were sound. Our pitching and defense were solid. We didn’t make a lot of errors, our pitchers didn’t walk a lot of people, we hit the ball and we were aggressive on the bases.

“And it didn’t hurt that we had two really outstanding catchers in K.J. Ruffo and Hayden Wilson. People didn’t steal on us. They threw a lot of guys out and they did a good job keeping guys on first base.”

The state runner-up finish was no accident. The athletes on Geertsen’s team played together in fall ball last fall. They took a short break the first of November, and many of the players were back at it, practicing one night a week the week before Thanksgiving.

The Kingsmen went 3-2 at the double elimination Junior American State Championship Tournament, their only losses both to a Banks team, which sported a lineup dominated by 12-year-olds. It was a Banks team that went undefeated through the entire summer.

“They were beating people with scores like 20-0 in their league and there was talk of moving them up to Junior Federal, but it didn’t happen,” Geertsen said of the Banks Braves. “They were an older team. It’s my understanding their entire team will have to move up to play Senior ball next year.”

Still the Kingsmen gave the Braves perhaps their toughest game of the season, losing a 9-8 barnburner in their final game of the state tournament.

“We had a guy on base and the winning run at the plate when the game ended,” Geertsen said.

The Kingsmen outhit the Braves 9-8 in the final, and they played error-free defense. But it took them awhile to get going. They trailed 9-0 heading into the last inning, when they rattled their bats for seven hits and scored all eight of their runs.

“We had runners on base in five of the six innings,” Geertsen said. “But we were hitting the ball right at people, and couldn’t get them around.”

Led by Gavin Lund (2-for-3) eight different Putnam players made contact for hits in the final with Banks. Lund, Derek Douangphrachanh, Rob Collman, Oscar Quick, John Foglio, Dakota Reber and Hayden Wilson all connected for hits in sixth-inning, eight-run rally. Wilson had a three-run triple in the big inning and Foglio belted a run-scoring double.

The Kingsmen had another close game in their state-tournament opener, a 4-3 win over Washougal, Wash.

Wilson played a huge role in that win, striking out 12, walking four and yielding only four hits and two earned runs in a complete-game victory.

Wilson also starred at the plate, going 2-for-2 and scoring the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning. Wilson singled, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on a base hit by Reber.

The Kingsmen stretched their advantage to 4-0 in the second frame, scoring three times on a base hit by K.J. Ruffo, a walk, an error, stolen bases, and a two-run single by Douangphrachanh (2-for-2).

The Kingsmen had eight hits and committed just one error in the hard-fought win.

Estacada Rangers bite the bullet

Next up was Estacada, a team that Putnam had finished back of in county league play. The Kingsmen were all business, and they dispatched with their rivals, 8-1.

They put Estacada away in the fourth frame, stretching a 3-0 advantage to 8-0. Reber had a pivotal two-run single in the big inning; Perry Collman (2-for-3) also had a big hit, a run-scoring single.

Reber was sharp in five innings on the mound, striking out seven and walking two in a two-hitter. Nick Geertsen made it three-up and thee-down in an inning of relief.

The Kingsmen had their hands full in their next game, a 9-1 winner’s bracket loss to Banks.

“We only struck out three times, but everything we hit was right at them,” coach Geertsen said.

Rob Collman and Wilson both had two hits apiece to lead a six-hit Kingsmen offensive attack.

The Kingsmen earned their second shot at Banks through an 11-5 loser’s bracket win over South Salem. Leading 4-3, Putnam put the game away in the bottom of the fifth, scoring seven runs on five hits, a walk, a fielder’s choice and an error.

John Irish, Rob Collman, Foglio, Geertsen and Reber all hit safely in the big inning.

Putnam finished the year with an overall record of 40-9.

Success is not new to Geertsen’s ball club. They competed in the Midget American Division for 9- and 10-year-olds last summer and placed fourth at state, after winning the county Midget American championship.

County champions

Seeded fourth, Putnam went 4-0 at this year’s county tournament, advancing to the final with wins over No. 5 Milwaukie (12-2 in four innings), No. 1 Redland (5-4) and No. 3 Estacada (8-3), and then defeating Estacada 4-3 in the final.

They had gone 12-4 in Clackamas County league play, finishing back of Redland (14-2), North Marion (14-2) and Estacada (14-2).

Players on the team included: K.J. Ruffo (catcher/outfield), Hayden Wilson (catcher/pitcher), Perry Collman (second base), Nick Geertsen (shortstop/pitcher), John Foglio (third base/shortstop), Oscar Quick (outfield), Gavin Lund (first base), John Irish (outfield), Korbyn Amundson (outfield/third base), Rob Collman (outfield/pitching), Derek Douangphrachanh (outfield) and Dakota Reber (pitcher/outfield).

The county championship final with Estacada was a defensive gem. The Kingsmen pulled out the 4-3 victory despite getting outhit 8-3.

“We had some very good defense,” coach Geertsen said. “They had the bases loaded in the second inning and (shortstop) Nick Geertsen threw a guy out at home.... Also, in the fifth inning, Nick threw a guy out at home with the bases loaded; and our pitcher, Dakota Reber, threw a guy out at home with the bases loaded.”

Offensive hero honors went to Irish, who drove in what would prove the winning run in the bottom of the fifth. Douangphrachanh drew a base on balls to lead off the inning, stole around to third, and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Irish.

Lund was also huge on offense in the championship game, going 2-for-2 and driving in runs with a two-run single in the first inning and a one-run single in the fourth.

Reber was money on the mound in the sixth and final frame. After giving up a run to the leadoff runner, he retired Estacada’s two, three and four batters through strikeouts.

Wilson (8 strikeouts, one walk, 4 hits) pitched the first four innings. Reber (4 strikeouts, no walks, 4 hits) finished up.

Seven different Putnam ball players made contact for hits in the 8-3 win over Estacada. Foglio had two hits; Amundson belted a double.

Geertsen (7 strikeouts, 2 walks, 5 hits) pitched the first four innings; Reber (2 strikeouts, one walk, 3 hits) pitched the last two.

The 5-4 win over top-seeded Redland was a real barnburner. Putnam went up 5-1, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth. Redland got three runs back in the bottom of the sixth before Amundson closed the door, flagging down a fly ball in right field to end the inning.

Geertsen smacked a two-run single in the top of the sixth.

Wilson pitched a complete game, striking out 12 and walking three, while allowing just two hits. The Kingsmen played error-free defense behind Wilson.

The Kingsmen had little difficulty in their 12-2 win over Milwaukie, a game that was stopped after just four innings through the 10-run rule.

Reber starred, going 2-for-2 with a two-run home run, scoring two runs, and taking care of business on the mound.

Wilson smacked a double; Geertsen scored twice.

The win advanced the Kingsmen to the 12-team Junior American State Tournament, which was contested July 18-21 at Portland’s Erv Lind Stadium.

The Kingsmen were a hitting machine at the county and state tournaments, with five players hitting over .300 for the two tournaments — Reber (.529, 9-for-17), Wilson (.421, 8-for-19), Geertsen (.411, 7-for-17), Foglio (.320, 8-for-25) and Douangphrachanh (.312, 5-for-16).