Gladstone made an early exit from the Oregon Independent Baseball Association tournament, dropping a 4-2 decision to Jesuit in Wednesday's opening round at Wilsonville High School.
Jesuit sent seven batters to the plate in the second inning and scored four runs on six hits before Will Spitznagel hit a line drive back to Gladstone pitcher Matthew Lehrbach, starting an inning-ended 1-6-3 triple play.
Gladstone rallied in the third inning when the Gladstone scored two runs on two hits, a hit by pitch, a walk and one Jesuit throwing error to cut the Crusaders' lead to 4-2.
Playing without two key starters -- center fielder Damian Alvarado and third baseman Ben McCoy -- the Gladiators put a runner on base and brought the potential tying run to the plate in each of the last four innings, but couldn't produce a clutch hit when they needed one.
"It would have been nice to have played with a full squad, but that's the way it goes in the summertime," Gladstone coach Casey Webster said. "Our kids who filled in did a nice job and they battled, so no complaints here."
This summer's 31-team OIBA field featured 24 teams from Class 6A schools, six from Class 5A schools, and the Class 4A Gladiators.
Webster probably could have found another league with more 4A teams, but he likes mixing it up with the big schools, because the Gladiators get to consistently face stiff competition with good umpires on good fields that are usually a short drive from Gladstone.
"Sometimes we'll take our lumps, but this summer we actually dished out some lumps, so it was kind of nice," Webster said. "We went over to a tournament in Bend and beat an American Legion team to get into the finals, and then lost 5-3 to a Legion team.
"I was pretty proud of the way these ids have played this summer. It's just a really good group, which makes it fun."
Gladstone graduated one key starter -- pitcher/shortstop Logan Saltares -- but went into OIBA play with essentially the same starting lineup that placed third behind Estacada and Molalla in the Tri-Valley Conference last spring and had No. 8 Astoria on the ropes in the first round of the OSAA Class 4A playoffs.
The Gladiators finished the summer with an 18-11 record and gained experience that Webster hopes will pay dividends next spring.
"You've got to think it's going to help," he said. "That's one of the reasons I do it. We got a lot of games in, we played against good competition … it has got to make you better. That's kind of the plan. You hope it works.
"I think the biggest thing is that we've got some kids that really love to compete and they're hard on themselves. We really tried to work on that aspect and to play for the team here, not worry about what your stats are or anything, and I think we've improved in that area."